What should I show in an input field that has different values?

I will try to be more specific: Lets say I have a table like the one below. And let's say I want to change the nationality of Karen and George, since they are actually Danish. I can select both of them, and when I click "edit" I will be able to change the value in a pop up dialog.

If I only select one of them in the table, the input field in the pop up dialog should of course say the current value, and let me set a new one. But what to put in the input box when there are different values? The solution should support more than two different values, i.e. I cannot put all values in the input field. Is it enough to pun " - " in the field?

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EDIT: Just stumbled upon an example of how windows solve the same issue. Multiple items are selected and we are now viewing the properties. The dimension, the width, the height and so on of each item is different which give you multiple values. Is this the best way?

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3 Answers 3


Take a look at Material design - Data tables.

To apply a value individually you can open a small edit dialog.

If you want to edit several at the same time I suggest something like this:

enter image description here

The actual layout is not the best and if you decide to go this way the checkbox column and the position of Apply Cancel buttons should be reconsidered, though. Maybe it might be useful to indicate "leave empty to leave values as they are". Also you could make use of a functionality that could edit several fields with different values: "George, Karen", but this would be for power users.


Are you expecting to change the nationality of Karen and George at the same time? Do your users expect to do this?

Karen and George are two independent records so the cleanest interaction for the user is to edit Karen first to change her nationality, then edit George to change his nationality.

You can choose to do this in the table by displaying a drop-down field in the Nationality column. Or if this creates too much visual clutter for your design, you can keep the table in "view mode" and you put the table into an "edit mode" which now displays the drop-down fields in the nationality column.

  • I just realize that my example is not the very best to reflect the real situation :) But yes, the user expects to change the value of two independent cells at the same time
    – efrethe
    Jan 16, 2017 at 12:30

Wordpress calls editing multiple fields at the same time "bulk edit" to make it clear that you are editing more than one item. It is also very clear which items you are editing and what the existing values are. If you can afford the space to show all of the values, that is more clear than "(multiple values)".

Wordpress bulk edit posts

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