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Every now and then, I come across applications that, when clicking on the main window's "X", ask me whether I'm sure that I want to quit the application.

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I'm not talking about asking me to save unsaved documents, but about applications that aren't document related at all.

This always bothers me, since I feel totally interrupted in my workflow. I was already thinking two steps ahead of what I want to do next, and this message box abruptly pulls 100% of my attention.

My question:

Are there any valid use cases where a non-document-centric application should ask me whether I'm sure that I want to exit the application?

2 Answers 2

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There are certain conditions under which it is useful:

  1. When the close/exit button/link is placed near to some other button or link. In such cases, to avoid accidental exits, the confirm dialog is useful and prevents that.
  2. When there is an existing process is in progress in the application and user clicked on exit button. In this case, to be sure and to inform the user about the ongoing process, the confirm dialog is useful.
  3. You already mentioned the unsaved changes condition.

Apart from these, I don't find any other usage worth the irritation and bad experience the confirm dialog offers. So, yes it's not good to ask user before exiting the application except the conditions mentioned above.

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    Generally, popups break the flow, like Uwe indeed mentioned in his op. Even if the close button is in close proximity to another button, I think a popup should only be necessary when the application takes a lot of time to kill processes to actually fully close itself, or when the application takes a lot of time to start. Consider for example, when closing an internet browser (or tab) it's not a big deal since you can quickly open the browser and restore your session. You could also turn the interaction around show a notification with a count down: closing in 6 sec, with the option to abort.
    – dirk
    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:42
  • Not diagreeing with your answer, but your first point - "bad placement of exit" is a usability issue that should be solved independently of the question of a close confirmation.
    – peterchen
    Oct 15, 2019 at 10:54
  • @peterchen Agreed. In some cases, this is not possible to separate out the buttons and their placement.
    – K K
    Oct 15, 2019 at 12:41
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@KK's answer is great; I just wanted to add my own, expressed in different terms.

The popup is employed to prevent accidentally closing the application and should be used when exiting might be costly.

That "cost" can be exhibited by:

  • loss of data (as you describe)
  • loss of time (as @dirk alludes to with resource-intensive applications)
  • user frustration by making mistakes
  • side effects by closing a critical application, such as that which might control machinery
  • ...et cetera

Essentially, the confirmation ensures that the user is willing to accept whatever cost might be incurred as a result.

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  • Nowithstanding user decisions like what to do with unsaved data etc., I'd consider this "cost of accidental close" to be the deciding issue: e.g. how how much time does it take find the icon again, wait for the app to start up and re-open documents / restore other context? Five seconds or less: no confirmation needed.thirty seconds or more: better ask. Downside: "Alt-F4" doesn't work as boss key anymore.
    – peterchen
    Oct 15, 2019 at 10:52

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