is a common graphical user interface
In computing, a graphical user interface is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands. GUIs can be used in computers, hand-held devices such as MP3 players, portable media players or gaming devices, household appliances and...
element. It is used in conjunction with a cursor
In computing, a cursor is an indicator used to show the position on a computer monitor or other display device that will respond to input from a text input or pointing device. The flashing text cursor may be referred to as a caret in some cases...
, usually a mouse pointer. The user hovers the cursor over an item, without clicking it, and a tooltip may appear—a small "hover box" with information about the item being hovered over.
A common variant, especially in older software, is displaying a description of the tool in a status bar
A status bar, similar to a status line, is an information area typically found at the bottom of windows in a graphical user interface.A status bar is sometimes divided into sections, each of which shows different information. Its job is primarily to display information about the current state of...
, but such descriptions are not usually called tooltips. Another system, on old Mac OS
Mac OS is a series of graphical user interface-based operating systems developed by Apple Inc. for their Macintosh line of computer systems. The Macintosh user experience is credited with popularizing the graphical user interface...
versions, that aims to solve the same problem, but in a slightly different way, is balloon help
Balloon help was a help system introduced by Apple Computer in their 1991 release of System 7.0. The name referred to the way the help text was displayed, in "balloons", like those containing the words in a comic strip...
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...
invented another term, "ScreenTip", and uses it in its end-user documentation.
Demonstrations of tooltip usage are prevalent on web pages. Many graphical web browser
A web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web. An information resource is identified by a Uniform Resource Identifier and may be a web page, image, video, or other piece of content...
s display the
attribute of an HTML
HyperText Markup Language is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML elements are the basic building-blocks of webpages....
element as a tooltip when a user hovers the mouse cursor over that element; in such a browser you should be able to hover over Wikipedia images and hyperlinks and see a tooltip appear. Some browsers, notably Microsoft's Internet Explorer
Windows Internet Explorer is a series of graphical web browsers developed by Microsoft and included as part of the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, starting in 1995. It was first released as part of the add-on package Plus! for Windows 95 that year...
(prior to version 7), will also display the
attribute of an image as a tooltip in the same manner if an
attribute is specified and a
attribute is not. If a
attribute is also specified, it will override the
attribute for tooltip content.
The term tooltip
originally came from older Microsoft applications (like Microsoft Word 95
Microsoft Word is a word processor designed by Microsoft. It was first released in 1983 under the name Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems. Subsequent versions were later written for several other platforms including IBM PCs running DOS , the Apple Macintosh , the AT&T Unix PC , Atari ST , SCO UNIX,...
), which had a toolbar
In a graphical user interface, on a computer monitor, a toolbar is a GUI widget on which on-screen buttons, icons, menus, or other input or output elements are placed. Toolbars are seen in office suites, graphics editors, and web browsers...
where moving the mouse over the buttons (the Toolbar icons) displayed these tooltips, a short description of the function of the tool in the toolbar. More recently, these tooltips are used in various parts of an interface, not only on toolbars.
Some software and applications, such as The GIMP
GIMP is a free software raster graphics editor. It is primarily employed as an image retouching and editing tool and is freely available in versions tailored for most popular operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and Linux.In addition to detailed image retouching and...
, provide an option for users to turn off some or all tooltips.
However, such options are left to the discretion of the developer, and are often not implemented.