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I have a toolbar in which some or all tools are in an only-one-active-at-once state. That is, if there are tools A+B+C, if A is active and I activate B, A becomes inactive.

What's the proper term for that?

The only word I can think of right now is "tabbed", but in the context I'm developing, not all tools have the visual metaphor of a tab (but some do!) which could lead to confusion.

"Modal" also came to mind, but the active state does not restrict interaction with other tools, so I don't believe it's the right word.

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    Is there a specific reason you want a term for this scenario? For a tutorial, or just to use when talking about it with team members or developers? – Ben Paddock Aug 14 at 14:53
  • You should ask this at English language & usage SE (english.stackexchange.com), as the question is about meaning of a word. Though about user interface related word. – locationunknown Aug 15 at 7:26
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  1. Mutually exclusive multiple choice
  2. Radio button behaviour (and this refers to behaviour only, not UI style)
  3. "Only one item can be active at a time"

From your explanation, #1 sounds the most condensed concept description; #2 would be a good way to describe the behaviour via well-known analogy, and #3 is how I would word it in a user-instructive fashion, e.g. the application's help file.

Without more context, it's hard to be more precise. 'Modal' to my mind refers to something else altogether.

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Mutually Exclusive:

: being related such that each excludes or precludes the other

Is the first term that always comes to mind for me. Though, if you are truly talking about modalities, "modal" could be acceptable depending on your audience.

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