My team and I just spent almost 2 hours discussing the right way to go about this issue.

We have a table. In this table, the rows can be selected. Each row also has a checkbox at the beginning of the row, indicating a "Show this row" functionality.

We are currently working on a check all/uncheck all/check selected/uncheck selected issue. I visualize it working like this:

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Since one row is highlighted, when we check the header checkbox, it should only check the highlighted row:

enter image description here

Same goes for a multi-highlight:

enter image description here

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And another:

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The disagreement we are having is what to do if you have ONE row highlighted, should checking the header checkbox check that ONE row, or should it check ALL rows? The idea behind this logic is that a row can be highlighted by performing a different action on it, and therefore it's harder to de-highlight that row. Thus if 1 or fewer rows are highlighted, the header checkbox should function as a check all checkbox, rather than a check only what is selected checkbox.

For example:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Any examples or official documentation on this would be great. I personally feel as though it should only check what is highlighted and that's the end of the story, but since this is a very specific behavior, I haven't been able to find any evidence online of something similar to back up or disprove my opinion.


  • What are the use cases for this functionality, in your application? What are the actions that lead a row/rows to be highlighted? Aug 1, 2018 at 5:07
  • You already have "select row" and "select all rows" checkboxes, so what would the point of selecting a row and then hitting the "select all rows" checkbox be?
    – user68158
    Aug 1, 2018 at 8:47
  • I agree with Michael Lai, and would like to add this comment without comment privileges: in the Chrome browsers history, you can use the space bar to check highlighted rows. I think that is a common pattern, although not very well known to me.
    – user109724
    Aug 1, 2018 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


I think the confusion comes from the fact that you are using a common pattern for a slightly different purpose.

Generally in a table, the select all feature would select all the rows in the table, not the ones that are highlighted. However, in your case you want the select all feature to apply to only the highlighted rows.

I think a less ambiguous solution (for those that are not familiar with your application) could be to provide a button that checks the highlighted rows (e.g. "Show highlighted rows") and that way you still leave the option to have a select all rows feature.

Best thing is to still check with the actual end users and get some feedback because it will be the quickest and most reliable way of coming up with a suitable decision.

  • Another button to select the highlighted rows was definitely considered, but people were unsure if it would be clear which does what. We will be giving this to our customers to test out soon, so we will also be changing the implementation based on what they say, but for now this seems like the most straightforward solution.
    – follmer
    Aug 1, 2018 at 15:14

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