When a link on a page directs to an external link, we use an external link icon

Ref: Should we tell users that a link or button will open in a new tab or window & how to do so?

Is there a standard icon that shows the user that the link/button opens a popup?

I think this is very relevant and needed.

EDIT: Is this a standard one? https://icons8.com/icon/14932/open-in-popup

  • The one you added in your edit is pretty standard, yes. But I only know it with a square frame
    – marcelgro
    Jan 29, 2019 at 11:36
  • yes, that icon (or some kind of variation of that icon) is pretty much what I have seen, but it's more common to use just text
    – Devin
    Jan 29, 2019 at 17:29
  • @Devin but on mobile devices, won't text take too much space?
    – Babbzzz
    Jan 30, 2019 at 14:48

4 Answers 4


I'm a little torn by this question. It feels like we should want to set users' clear expectations with something an icon, like you suggest. And yet I can't help but wonder if this is a solution in search of a problem.

Have you studied your users' behaviour to see if they are disoriented or surprised when they click the link/button and get a modal?

If users are having challenges, I would start by enquiring further:

  • What were users' expectation when they clicked?
  • Is there something in the interaction or visual design that causes confusion? Examples:
    • Does the window appear at the top of the page above where the user has scrolled to?
    • Is there not enough "shadow" between the modal and the page it's superimposed on?
  • Does the modal behaviour prevent them from doing something else they'd like? Examples:
    • Did they want compare with information on the previous page and now hidden by the modal?
    • Did they need information available in two different modals?

From there I would ask if this modal is the right tool for this situation or not.

I would recommend having a look at these articles from Nielsen Norman Group for thoughts on this:


A popup is usually just an implementation of a larger pattern called "modal dialog", which can be implemented in a lot of different ways, not necessarily a "popup" as user understands it. It might be a good idea not to denote an implementation, but an idea instead: "this will require further action" instead of "this will open a popup".

The Windows UX guidelines say you should use ellipsis (…) when there is some additional action required after the action (popup, dialog, confirmation) and it isn't clear by the action itself:

enter image description here

While command buttons are used for immediate actions, more information might be needed to perform the action. Indicate a command that needs additional information (including confirmation) by adding an ellipsis at the end of the button label.

This doesn't mean you should use an ellipsis whenever an action displays another window only when additional information is required to perform the action. Consequently, any command button whose implicit verb is to "show another window" doesn't take an ellipsis, such as with the commands About, Advanced, Help (or any other command linking to a Help topic), Options, Properties, or Settings.

So maybe you should use an ellipsis after the button's label.

That is of course if you use popups as modal dialogs, not as a way of navigation.

Update: Turns out, it's a part of Apple's human interface guidelines too.


this actually talks about windows or a new window but i believe it can be used also fora popup window icon


It is not a standard icon, but one of the main characteristics of a modal window is the closing cross in the upper right corner; an abstraction can be made from this:

enter image description here

  • 2
    The question is not asking for a design of a new icon. It's asking if there is currently a standard one. Your suggestions may well be appropriate in theory, but if they're not standard, haven't been tested and aren't recognised by end users then it's not really what the question is asking for.
    – JonW
    Jan 29, 2019 at 14:52

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