I'm building an application which will be "running in the system tray" (an icon will be shown there) and a menu will be shown when the user clicks on the icon

When I look at different applications I can see that there is a difference in how they use the system tray, in two respects:

1. Menu

Menus are shown on right click for some applications, and on left click for others


2. Minimizing to tray

Some Applications are minimized to tray when clicking on "x"/"close" (in the upper right corner normally), while others are minimized to tray when the user pressed the "minimize" button

close and minimize

Question: Is there a standard for how to handle the system tray?

The application that I'm working on is cross-platform (Gnome, KDE, Windows, MacOS) and uses Qt

Grateful for help!

These other questions bring up minimize to tray behavior:

2 Answers 2


Short answer: There is no standard, neither between different OSes, nor within the apps of the same OS. Please find bellow full-explanation and suggested approach:

The system tray houses a set of special applications (application helpers, applets) that are supposed to visibly run in the background. This is a contradiction, which encourages inconsistencies to the interaction with the system tray apps.

The above behaviour categorises the system tray somewhere between the task bar (includes visible user applications) and the task manager (includes all user-system tasks visible and non-visible). The hybrid nature of the system tray applications (partly task-bar, partly task-manager) encourages non-standard interaction designs like those that you describe (left-click for context menu and 'x' for minimising).

As a remedy, when there is no standard, then the employment of consistency might be helpful for the users. For example, a context menu appears only with right-click and the application is only minimised with the minimise button. In the same way, pressing the 'x' brings up a dialog that asks the user to confirm quitting the application and left-clicking brings-up the main application window (if there is any).


On Windows when I click the X on an opened app I want to close it. I personally find it infuriating when some apps coughSkypecough just minimize to my task bar. Since your app lives in the tray the X should just make the window disappear and your app continues to run in the tray, a menu option from the tray should be "Quit/Exit" to kill the app completely.

TL;DR use X to close and if you need some form of minimize it should be a different icon.

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