The combobox has two benefits: a) fits in limited realestate and b) signals single selection to the user.

What are the best alternatives for touch screens which minimize interacts? Combobox demands multiple clicks and that is more tedious for touch (imo).

  • 2
    Do you mean list box? A combo box also allows you to type something that's not in the list. Sep 2, 2010 at 21:03
  • That's not always true. A list box allows single or multiple selection from an always present list. A combo box (or dropdown) provides the selected item as visible while demanding the user act in order to select options. Sep 4, 2010 at 13:52
  • 2
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combo_box - A combo box is a commonly used GUI widget which is a combination of a drop-down list or list box and a single-line textbox, allowing the user to either type a value directly into the control or choose from a list of existing options.
    – Erics
    Nov 24, 2011 at 13:05
  • Because it is on wikipedia, that doesn't make it true. There are editable and non-editable combo boxes.
    – André
    Jan 25, 2013 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


On iOS devices, the "drop down" control is rendered as a large-target control that takes up half the screen and allows the user to swipe through the list easily. Whichever item is in the middle of the reticle is selected. This way, you only need to touch to activate the control, swipe to select, and touch again to confirm. These touches aren't superfluous since they all serve a clear purpose.

Combo box on iPhone

Combo boxes, where you can also type to select an item, seem unnecessary on touch platforms with controls like the above since it's far easier to swipe your way through a long list (especially with phone book style index selection like iOS has) than it is to scroll through a drop down menu on kb/mouse platforms.


Rahal has presented and explained the most common and useful solution to this problem.

In special cases, when the list of values in the list box is very long, I would consider a different approach:

Show the selected value (or "choose...") in a regular field with a carrot (">") at the far right.
Pressing the field would navigate to a new screen, containing the long list of values. At this point you can employ two techniques:

  • Selection of one value automatically returns to the previous screen.
  • Selection of any value marks it with a "v", but leave the user on the same screen. If the user tries pressing another value, the "v" jumps to the new value, implying there's no multi-selection.

Benefits (assuming it's a long list):

  • The user immediately sees more of the values
  • It's easier to scroll than the roller which only has half the screen (and you can touch the top of the screen to go all the way up)
  • You can add a navigation control, such as the alphabetized navigation the iPhone's native contacts list has, to help "jump" to points of interest.
  • In extreme cases you can also add a "search" box.

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