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I am building a custom data grid control. The users do a lot of sorting and filtering. I want them to be able to do this with only the keyboard. Currently they can filter columns by typing in the column header. They can use symbols < > ! = to change the filter behavior to "less than", "greater than", not, and "is exactly". If they don't use a symbol it will filter down to rows that contain the string in the column. What's a good symbol that users can type on a standard en-us keyboard that would indicate that the users want to filter down to items that start with the string they type?

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Maybe simply place the string in the quotes (without any other symbols)? –  Alex Ovtcharenko Aug 27 '12 at 20:05
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Well if your users know Regular Expressions or could be generally familiar with them, ^ is the standard symbol there, but it's not intuitive otherwise. –  Ben Brocka Aug 27 '12 at 20:08

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

What you are describing is standard wildcard functionality, so you could append a * to the end of the start string (which is nice and standard); or perhaps + which could be fairly intuitive; or even % which is used by various flavours of SQL. As well as the Regular Expression ^ as described by Ben Brocka (which would go at the start of the string).

I don't think it's a good idea to mix conventions, though. Using a * at the beginning of the user entry to specify "starts with" may well confuse users who are used to conventional wildcards.

Edit following comments If full wildcard functionality is not supported, either a * could stop anything else being entered, or — probably better — a tooltip could pop-up saying that only trailing wildcards are supported (and then remove the offending letter).

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+1. However, if you do not provide general wildcard support, users will probably find it confusing that begin* is legal but *end and mid*dle are not. –  Brian Aug 27 '12 at 21:36
    
Good idea, though to stop the problems outlined by @Brian how about a lighter-colour asterisk and ellipsis that prepends whatever you type but cannot be removed? *...Query –  TJH Aug 28 '12 at 9:18
    
I think I will go with full wildcard support on this. Thanks! I'll also have a context menu for setting the filter type. –  Owen Johnson Aug 28 '12 at 18:50

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