I usually see this on tables or forms where some are using dropdown and some are using "unfold more" icon. Is there any difference or each icon has its own meaning?

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Other Reference:

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  • Icons alone don't mean much. It's the context that provides details as to what it does or what it is. – Majo0od May 22 '17 at 17:43

To my understanding, they all are sorting icons that represent different state of the sorting. These images were taken from font-awesome.




sorting icons

In the case of a drop-down, it doesn't make any difference which icon you are going to use, as long as it delivers the message that it is a drop-down.

Both of what you have shown work since they are quite commonly used. Try to keep it consistent with the whole system.

  • Added a new image that doesn't sort. (I just googled the image) – Sknny May 22 '17 at 9:57
  • not necessarily true for all cases; in the question the "fa-sort" type of icon is used on a drop-down that doesn't imply any type of sorting, it's just an option selection – Luciano May 22 '17 at 10:00
  • @Luciano I added my answer for the drop-down case – Dimitra Miha May 22 '17 at 10:02
  • @Luciano exactly like on this link i found: thedesigninspiration.com/blog/2013/08/26/… – Sknny May 22 '17 at 10:02

Both the icons which you have attached are totally different.

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  • This one can be used as indicator of dropdown in combo-box or menu items.

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  • This icon is used to increase or decrease values in a input field like a slider.


I'm not sure if I get the second icon right, but it looks to me like it's two icons; expand and collapse view. In that case, the one on the left is the same as the bottom one on the right.

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If that's not the case, the two icons are very different. The one on the left is to indicate a dropdown menu and the one on the right can increase or decrease a value. For example in a spinner or slider.

  • I added some images which unfold more icon was used for sorting which doesn't define increases or decreases value. – Sknny May 22 '17 at 7:35

In my experience the caret in a user interface simply means "more". It can be used as a toggle to expand/collapse a section, as a dropdown icon, or in a content slider to indicate more content to the right (or left). The direction of the "more" is usually indicated by the direction the caret is pointing.

See this answer: https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/21531/9932

And this answer: https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/96650/9932

  • Does sorting defines "more"? – Sknny May 23 '17 at 8:49
  • In the case of sorting a caret isn't used unless a column has been sorted. The caret is usually an indicator of two things: 1. that the column is sorted vs not sorted, and 2. the direction of the sort (asc vs desc). Therefore the caret is not indicating "more" in a sort, and usually isn't displayed until after the user decides to sort a column. See this answer: ux.stackexchange.com/a/80660/9932 – Joel Garfield May 24 '17 at 12:06

In my opinion, those icons are different.

I have never seen a sort icon that uses chevrons, I have only seen it using arrow triangles.

The expand chevron indicates hidden content that typically appears below something, for example a heading in a box which is expandable and collapsable, for example an accordion.

The unfold icon to me indicates that you can unfold content inbetween content. For example when you search for a public transport trip and you'll first see only start and end destination. I would use this icon to unfold the stops inbetween start and end destination.

unfold more icon used to unfold stops between start and end destination of a trip


It completely depends on the context of usage.

  1. Drop down or sorting
  2. Next / Previous or Up / Down or Increase / Decrease

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