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If I want to designate an item in a text-only list as default, is there some standard character or symbol that I can use?

I considered using *, but it is commonly used to designate modified files, so I am reluctant to use it in my case.

Another option is to use the word "default" or "def", but I prefer something shorter:

  • item 1
  • item 2 (default)
  • item 3
  • Where are you pulling trends from that an asterisk designates a modified field? – Evil Closet Monkey Jul 29 at 13:54
  • Probably this is Windows-centric, but you can see it in Visual Studio and Notepad for example: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/41038/… – riot_starter Jul 30 at 14:08
  • Those designate a modified file, in the title bar. Not a modified input field. I have never seen (over many many years) an asterisk designate a modified input field. – Evil Closet Monkey Jul 30 at 14:13
  • You are right. I've should written files instead of items. – riot_starter Jul 30 at 16:17
  • What's the context of this design? Does the user really need to know what the default setting is? In what situations would they want to go back? The problem with showing something like a star is that this might confuse users as to which option is actually selected. Also, unlike using an asterisk for required fields, including a custom character in a menu item is not an established pattern, so your users might not even know what it means. – JochenW Aug 5 at 1:03
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You could use a star ★ (UniCode ★), which is different from an asterisk *.

It also possible to change the text properties, which won't use any additional space in your layout. Examples are: shadow, color, bold, or underlining:

Example text

Other character examples are

  • white medium star ⭐ (Unicode ⭐)
  • six pointed black star ✶ (Unicode ✶)
  • white four pointed star ✧ (Unicode ✧)
  • twelve pointed black star ✹ (Unicode ✹)
  • rightwards arrow → (Unicode →)
  • black right-pointing triangle ▶ (Unicode ▶)
  • notched lower right-shadowed white rightwards arrow ➯ (Unicode ➯)
  • ballot box with check ☑ (Unicode ☑)
  • radio button 🔘 (Unicode 🔘)
  • circled dot operator ⊙ (Unicode ⊙)
  • white circle with dot right ⚆ (Unicode ⚆)
  • black circle ⬤ (Unicode ⬤)
  • medium white circle ⚪ (Unicode ⚪)
  • medium black circle ⚫ (Unicode ⚫)
  • 1
    Thanks, I really like the star suggestion! – riot_starter Jul 28 at 8:25
  • Bold has some precedent when used in context menus in Windows although this no longer seems to be the case everywhere in Windows 10; the bolded item in a context menu is the 'default' action that gets invoked when the associated element is clicked or double-clicked. For example, right-clicking a folder in Windows Explorer will have "Open" bolded, which is the default action for a folder. – Vivelin Jul 30 at 6:16
  • Yes, it is fine for context menu item or for a dialog button, but I find it too prominent in a list, especially if the rest of the UI do not use bold fonts.. – riot_starter Jul 30 at 14:10
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What's the context of this design? Does the user really need to know what the default setting is? In what situations would they want to go back?

The problem with showing something like a star is that this might confuse users as to which option is actually selected if they see both the uncommon character as well as the checkmark ✔.

Also, unlike using an asterisk for required fields, including a custom character in a menu item is not an established pattern, so your users might not even know what it means.

Hence, the most meaningful approach, even if you don't like its aesthetics ;), would be to append the menu item with (default).

That said, in some cases, especially in applications aimed at very tech-savvy users, you could consider a "Restore Defaults" button, as does BBEdit in its preferences:

enter image description here

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