What is the origin and meaning behind the magic wand icon? I've seen it in a bunch of programs and they all seem to have different functions.

In Photoshop it is used a:

tool that selects similarly colored areas

In Prism 6 it is used as:

“Magic”, which stands for Make Graphs Consistent.

So is it just a tool icon that's used for a number of different purposes which are just too specific to have a more related icon?

  • 4
    Surely you don't think there's only one kind of magic?? ;) – maxathousand Dec 20 '17 at 14:13

This icon is less about the actual function, and instead is metaphor for waving a magic wand to invoke "software magic" to make easy work of apparently complex and difficult tasks.

The Adobe Magic Wand may technically be a tool that "selects similarly colored areas", but compared to the laborious options for selecting items before this tool existed, the icon communicates a utility similar waving a magic wand over the image and presto! you have your selection.

Similarly in Prism 6, "make graphs consistent" may be the actual result, but the metaphor is more about waving wands and invoking "magic" to easily achieve complex results.

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