I'm sure this question must have been answered before... What's the difference between Modal window and a Popup? What to use when? Is there a good article I can read?

Thanks, Roland

  • Refer to this thread and you will get to know the difference between popup, pop-over, lightbox and a modal. :)
    – Sanshizm
    Dec 4, 2016 at 12:08
  • "I'm sure this question must have been answered before" - if that is the case, then you should do a thorough check to ensure that the question was not already asked, before posting your own question, so that you don't post a duplicate question. In this case, I happen to have already asked and answered this exact question. If you do a quick google search for your question title, "Pop-ups vs Modal windows", the question that this is a duplicate of comes up as the first result, so if you did you research properly before you posted this question, you should have been able to find the answer.
    – Tot Zam
    May 5, 2017 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


A modal tends to be a specific term. It refers to a 'box' that has to be interacted with before you can interact with the rest of the application. On a web page, it's usually an in-page dialog. In a desktop app, it's usually a separate window within the application (or in OSX, for example, it's a 'drawer' attached to an existing application window)

A popup can refer to a modal box, a non modal box, a tooltip, an overlay, a new browser window, and several other things as well. It's a somewhat generic term.


Modals generally demand immediate attention, not allowing you to do anything else while you interact with them. You'd use them often when your page has little meaning without the user doing something specific first.

Popups on the other hand are akin to tooltips and dropdowns, they let you provide more granularity to a function or detail to an element, but are generally secondary in importance.


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