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Part II: Fundamental Java Application Design
4: Visual Design
> Text in the Interface
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Text in the Interface

Text is an important design element and appears throughout your application in such components as command buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, alert box messages, and labels for groups of interface elements. Strive to be concise and consistent with language.

  Use language that is clear, consistent, and concise throughout your application text. Moreover, ensure that the wording of your labels, component text, and instructions is readable and grammatically correct.

  For all text that appears in the interface elements of your application, follow one of two capitalization conventions: headline capitalization or sentence capitalization. Use headline capitalization for most names, titles, labels, and short text. Use sentence capitalization for lengthy text messages.

  Do not capitalize words automatically. You might encounter situations in your interface when capitalization is not appropriate, as in window titles for documents that users have named without using capitalization.

  Use standard typographical conventions for sentences and headlines in your application components. Let translators determine the standards in your target locales.

  Place all text in resource bundles so that localization experts don't have to change your application's source code to accommodate translation. See Appendix C for lists of localized terms and phrases that might appear in your interface.

Headline Capitalization in English

Most items in your application interface should use headline capitalization, which is the style traditionally used for book titles (and the section titles in this book). Capitalize every word except articles ("a," "an," and "the"), coordinating conjunctions (for example, "and," "or," "but," "so," "yet," and "nor"), and prepositions with fewer than four letters (like "in"). The first and last words are always capitalized, regardless of what they are.

Use headline capitalization for the following interface elements (examples are in parentheses):

  • Checkbox text (Automatic Save Every Five Minutes)
  • Combo box text (Centimeters)
  • Command button text (Don't Save)
  • Icon names (Trash Can)
  • Labels for buttons or controls (New Contribution To:)
  • Menu items (Save As...)
  • Menu titles (View)
  • Radio button text (Start at Top)
  • Slider text (Left)
  • Tab names (RGB Color)
  • Titles of windows, panes, and dialog boxes (Color Chooser)
  • Tool tips (Cut Selection)

If your tool tips are longer than a few words, sentence capitalization is acceptable. Be consistent within your application.

Sentence Capitalization in English

When text is in the form of full sentences, capitalize only the first word of each sentence (unless the text contains proper nouns, proper adjectives, or acronyms that are always capitalized). Observe proper punctuation within and at the end of full sentences. Avoid the use of long phrases that are not full sentences. If you determine that you must use a phrase that is not a full sentence, no punctuation is required at the end.

Use sentence capitalization in the following interface elements (examples are in parentheses):

  • Alert box text (The document you are closing has unsaved changes.)
  • Error or help messages (The printer is out of paper.)
  • Labels that indicate changes in status (Operation is 75% complete.)

Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines, second edition.
Copyright 2001. Sun Microsystems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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