I'm working on a notification platform and found a somewhat amusing bug. My software checks for updates every N minutes, and if there is an update, lets the user know via a non-modal notification. The amusing part is that more than one notification can stack, and I didn't sanity check, left my software for an hour and came back to a handful of notifications all telling me i needed to update.

So I'm working up beefing up the notification center to allow for a single-instance notification. That said, I'm just honestly not sure what to call this new feature of the user interface. In programming Jargon I'd call it a singleton, but the definition doesn't exactly carry over.

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    The first word that came to mind for me as well was singleton (but I'm also a front-end developer...). Who are you trying to communicate this concept with? If it's for fellow technical people, I'd say singleton is likely sufficient. If it's for you to use while speaking to non-technical people, you could subtly define it for them in conversation the first time you use it: "Now, this modal is a singleton, so there can only be one of them showing at a time..." Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 19:11
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    I thought that 'modal' referred to something in the user interface that "there can only be one of." It means this from the sense that once it appears, you have to deal with it before something else can happen. If you have one update or a hundred, basically your notification case means: "the data was updated." In many data applications, you are only allowed to open a particular form once, which is similar. Sometimes you can only have one running instance of a program. I guess that would be called "single instance".
    – user67695
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 19:11
  • I would refer to it as an "alert" or "singleNotification".
    – Alan
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 19:21
  • @nocomprende I interpreted modal as "A dialog which much be immediately dealt with before any interaction can be taken", which would imply only one can exist, but in my situation the alert doesn't block other interaction. Then again, I could have my terminology wrong.
    – Sidney
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 19:29
  • Windows evolved from single-threading, so it would not usually be possible for a modal dialog to arise more than once. Until 1992... (Windows NT)
    – user67695
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


If only one of a certain entity can exist it would be called 'unique'. Apply that to the world of UX and you have the phrase 'unique asset'. This is the closest description for this particular scenario.


Solitary seems to be a good word for what you are describing.

e.g. 'solitary notification', 'solitary event' etc.


Interestingly, the first definition on that page includes the word 'unattended', which is entirely relevant when talking about unacknowledged notifications!

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