All applications in Mac OS and their web interfaces on iCloud vary with their cursor type. My question is for the same apps, why does the cursor type vary between the OS and Web?

Please refer the screenshot taken from Pages-OS and Pages-Web.

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  • I think it is used the default type for tabs and pointer type for links. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:09
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    I think it is just more common to use the pointer for interactive elements on the web, whereas it is rarely used in desktop applications. For instance, as I'm writing this, the pointer is used on StackExchange's site but not in Google Chrome's UI.
    – Nate Green
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:25
  • Agreed with Nate, I think it's just a difference between web and desktop applications (or perhaps the dev that built both) not a conscious UX decision to make one different than the other.
    – DasBeasto
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:46
  • @NateGreen I wish that was an actual answer so I can upvote it. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 14:06
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    Because the established conventions for desktop apps are different from the established conventions for web apps. Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 2:55

3 Answers 3


Conventionally, in desktop UIs, clickable elements don't get a special cursor. They might change their state some other way when hovered, but the cursor typically remains the same (the default, "arrow" cursor).

On the web, however, it's increasingly common to use cursor: pointer (the hand with extended pointer finger) for clickable elements such as links, buttons, and other interactive controls. In my estimation this trend evolved because hyperlinks defaulted to cursor: pointer…perhaps because a (anchor/link) elements are often disguised as buttons, the buttons were also given cursor: pointer so they'd be indistinguishable.

Some people seem to believe that the pointer is a symptom of a poor visual UI design:

A well-designed button does not need a hand cursor to help the user realise it does something.

I, however, prefer to use the pointer cursor on any clickable element when working on browser-based apps. I don't disagree that the interface should be clear without it, but to me, using cursor: pointer on a clickable element is confirmation of the fact that something will react when clicked.

  • 2
    came here to give exactly the same response :)
    – exp
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 14:43
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    That buttons are often link elements in disguise also has a few reasons. For one, it was once the most robust cross-browser way to make something hoverable and clickable. And in some cases, using links as buttons can provide a fallback (simply follow the link instead of triggering some advanced javascript the browser can't handle) and/or provide an explicit URL for something, in case you want it.
    – Flambino
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 15:43
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    People started to do this when it became vouge to not show undescores on links. The only way to tell if you could click on something was to change the cursor. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 16:56
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    This answer is slightly confusing because it talks about "pointer" and cursor: pointer without explaining that that it's referring to the hand-pointing cursor and not the arrow-pointing cursor.
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 2:02
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    @jamesdlin "pointer" is the official name of the hand pointer in CSS.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 13:49

Usually when the cursor changes state from it's 'original' state (being a normal point-click cursor) it would indicate that there is further functionality in the item that you are currently hovering over.

In the context of your pictures: is there any further functionality in the web-version than the OS-version? Can you drag and drop on one of them?

I suspect it's simply lack of persistence from Apple's side. Where a developer or ux-designer has forgot to implement something or maybe Apple is trying to gather data on something on either of the applications before implementing the change to the other?


Ask yourself this:

what makes the cursor change? For instance thanks to your brain cognitive load you can observe that when you can interact with anything the cursor shows the hand; if you cant interact but just see it the cursor stays the same..

So to recap and refresh, if I observe i can see that based on the cursor feedback i can know what how and if i can do anything within the environment the cursor is placed.


  • 13
    Man, you are messing up the terminology. Cognitive load is how much cognitive resources a person spent's when performing certain task. It is also referred as mental workload, stress, strain, arousal. You are probably referring about visual processing or just using it as a fancy word that you've heard somewhere. Just a correction. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 14:52

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