What's the English (non-technical) word we use to refer to a GUI "box" which groups different elements together?

For example, we can see a Performance "box" in this image:

A screen capture of a 'System Properties' window with the 'Advanced' tab showing. The subsection/box labeled 'Performance' has a hand-drawn red circle around it.

What's an alternative (non-technical) word to use instead of calling it a "box"?

  • 2
    I'm not sure this is the appropriate place to ask this, and also I'm not sure that that box has a standard name. It probably depends on the platform/gui-toolkit. Oct 12 '11 at 13:09
  • You should ask this question on a more technical SE site, like UI or programmers.
    – Mitch
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:17
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    This style of "box" really only exists on Windows, and in Microsoft style, it doesn't have a name. See these Microsoft instructions for example - the most they refer to the "box" is its label name, which would vary for each box: "Click the Advanced tab, and then click Settings under Performance."
    – aedia λ
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:29
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    @Pacerier: Language does have standards, which may be arbitrary, but for example there are several things in that image with standard names: tabs, buttons, labels, focus indicator, borders, etc. As for that box, maybe it's a box, or a frame, or a container, or a ...? Oct 12 '11 at 14:18
  • 1
    or a Groupbox - that's what Microsoft call it, at least. Personally though in documentation I call it a 'panel' because I think this is a better word for a non-technical reader.
    – peterG
    Jan 21 '14 at 1:47

I'd call the "System Properties" section a window, in which is contained a set of tabs, and in the "Advanced" tab is a "Performance" pane which contains a "Settings" button.

  • Pane sounds cool =D, I'd take this as answer if there's no better alternative
    – Pacerier
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:28
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    There's what things are officially called, then there's what people actually use, and then there's what's metaphorically apt. 'Group' seems to be official/technical (my answer), people don't seem to have a word for it in general (aedia's comment), but 'pane' sounds just right (even though it doesn't sound like it has ever been used this (obvious) way before. It wouldn't get confused with 'tab', would it?
    – Mitch
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:34
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    In UI parlance, a pane is an area of a screen or window that contains its own view, which is independent from any other views that are present. For example, if you have a web page with two different panes (like a navigation pane and a content pane), scrolling one pane should not cause the other to scroll. As other answers have noted, the object under consideration is most properly called a group.
    – phenry
    Oct 13 '11 at 20:59
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    @Mitch: I think it would. I’m familiar with pane being used as an almost-synonym of tab, and iirc this goes back a long way, at least in Mac OS usage. Searching eg preferences pane gives plenty of examples.
    – PLL
    Oct 13 '11 at 21:00

The name this is given by the dialog box creation API is group, implying that more than one item can be within that box.

  • 3
    I think you're right. These Windows guidelines for developers and designers call them "group boxes"; note that they say not to refer to that concept in user interface text, so audience matters.
    – aedia λ
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:45
  • Group Box is the proper technical name. In Windows API these controls have the "button style" BS_GROUPBOX from the standard windows class "button" (Programming Windows, 5th Edition, by Charles Petzold).
    – yms
    Oct 13 '11 at 20:37
  • Qt also refers to these as the quite self-descriptive "group box"
    – dbr
    Sep 1 '14 at 12:38

Depending on what you're trying to describe, I'd call it either a "box" or a "section." If you're talking to a programmer, you might use the name of a class if one exists.

  • I'm not talking to a programmer..
    – Pacerier
    Oct 12 '11 at 13:26
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    It would help to know who exactly you are talking to.
    – Hugo
    Oct 12 '11 at 14:26
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    @Pacerier, the point is that context matters. If you're writing a user manual for laymen, say "box" or "section" or "group box" because those terms are fairly descriptive. If you're talking to a UI designer or programmer familiar with the Windows API, use "group". If you're talking to programmers who are likely to be familiar with GUI development but might not know Windows API specifically, say "pane," "view," or "window."
    – Caleb
    Oct 12 '11 at 15:53
  • @Hugo non-programmers
    – Pacerier
    Oct 12 '11 at 21:52
  • @Caleb laymen yep you got the term =D
    – Pacerier
    Oct 12 '11 at 21:52

In programming, the usual name for the UI "control" seen here with a title of "Performance" is a "group box". Its purpose is simply to visually organize its "child" controls (here, a label with the "Visual effects, processor scheduling..." text, and a button labelled "Settings...") under a common heading, when the number of controls being grouped is too small to justify a larger grouping construct like a "tab page" such as the Advanced tab all of these controls are placed on.

So, from most containing to most contained, you're looking at a System Properties "window" or "dialog", with an Advanced "tab", with a Performance "groupbox", with a Settings "button".


The answer to this will depend on the nomenclature of the chosen platform and development environment. On the Microsoft (Windows) platform, "System Properties" is a dialog, form or window, while "Performance" is a frame or panel. More generically, both are examples of windows, which is the name given to any graphical control element as well as being synonymous with a form. Confused?

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/4e964t5e(v=vs.90).aspx http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/system.windows.window(v=vs.110).aspx

Terminology on different platforms (e.g. Linux, Macintosh) may vary considerably. Even on Windows it may vary somewhat between users of different programming environments (e.g. pre and post .Net eras, other IDE vendors). What I've quoted for you is the Microsoft terminology in most common use.

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