User interface documentation, one of the important tasks in software documentation, requires clear and consistent definition of all interface components. In this second part of the series, we continue with our survey of the most important interface components that a technical writer should be familiar with.
NOTE: Windows, Mac and Linux machines all have different user interfaces, depending on the particular Operating System (OS) (or “distribution” in the case of Linux) installed on your machine. This series is limited to the Windows interface only.
First of all, let’s clarify the conceptual difference between a SCREEN and a WINDOW.
A SCREEN, as defined by Microsoft, is the “graphic portion of a visual output device.” It is sometimes used interchangeably with a “MONITOR” or a “DISPLAY.” Sometimes both are used together as in the retronym “monitor screen.”
A WINDOW, on the other hand, refers to the individual display area surrounded by a FRAME and display when the user clicks a button or selects certain menu options.
A “screen” displays one or more “window”(s) but not the other way around.
A “screen” has one size which is the size of the monitor. Every “window,” on the other hand, might have a different size depending on the user preference.
A “window” is a more abstract term when compared to a “screen” and that’s why although there is a “screen RESOLUTION” (number of pixels in a unit length of screen), there is no corresponding “window resolution.” There is, for example, “screen SAVER” programs. But there are no similar “window savers.” You can save and close a window but a screen, as the physical medium of the interface, is there always, no matter which window(s) it is displaying.
When there are multiple windows open in a screen, the window that is selected and responds to user commands is referred to as the window in FOCUS. By “focusing” on a window you select it and make it respond to your interaction.