So I've got a utility that really only needs to be ran internally, but I want the guys who use it to not complain about it all the time.

I don't think that style particularly matters to them either, so the font doesn't have to match the rest of the program.

This tree has 50,000 or so things in it and is something should streamline their job if they can use it right. That being said, it is often very difficult to find what you want in a tree with 50,000 things unless you get some hints from the font.

I'm using Softgem's VirtualTreeview for Delphi, so it's a pretty powerful thing, but my main tools are still:

  • Bold, italic, strikethrough and underline.
  • A tiny image that I can put on the left.
  • I can prefix and suffix the text in the tree node with anything I want (although that can look confusing).
  • and I can change the font size.

So I'm wondering, what graphical cues can indicate (In order of importance):

  • Saved
  • Not Saved
  • Disabled
  • Changed
  • Active
  • Skipped
  • Replace
  • Loaded

That's a lot of stuff to communicate and it's not totally important if everything doesn't get through because the users can just rightclick on the node and it'll tell them what they need to know (but with 50,000 nodes that can be a lot of right clicking)

3 Answers 3


What about instead of indicating the state of the item in the view using multiple views, each with only the items that are of that state.

One main tree view that contains all the items and then a filtered view with only the saved ones for exampled. You can either give the user one view per state or a couple of filter buttons to turn the states that should be displayed on and of.

If you still want to show all the states for one item, you could display them by using a list of icons to the left of the item. Or prefix them with a list of letters that indicate the state, if the item does not have that state leave a space for it, if you do this using a monospaced font you could get a fairly neat representation of the information.

Also, don't you two separate states for opposite properties Saved/Not Saved are two values of the saved state, represent them with different cues in the same place


You should likely be using only one typeface. And then perhaps a few styles of it. But for the most part, I'd stick with two. Say, Bold and Book weights. Or Roman and Italic.

Anything more than that to indicate state is going to be putting WAY too much responsibility on the type styles.

You do have strike-through, which can be useful (mainly for 'deleted'). Just watch for legibility.

Given the number of states you have, I'd say you want to use a set of icons to communicate that specific information.

I wouldn't hide anything in a right-click. Consider a hover state that after a period of time (say half-second) you get the little info window.

  • That's a good idea with the hover state - hope I've got that ability. Oct 8, 2010 at 18:26

First thing I would start analyzing this situation from is counting the number of nodes in each state and therefore decide which ones are more important than others. Second step would be analyzing which types of nodes can happen to be next to eachother and which certainly not. Which states need to differ more and which less.

Though you did not mention that you had an option to color-code the values, I would still try to do that - with single-colored icons. Instead of graphical icons, which are tiny-sized and therefore most probably not very helpful, even if you are lucky enough to find a perfect set for your states.

Agreeing with DA01, I would definitely keep the font family and size the same and vary only normal/bold (and strikethrough for "deleted").

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