What paradigms exist for denoting that a row of data has been modified and that a Save action on the view will change them in the data store? Which paradigms are recommended?

A few that we've discussed:

  • Bolding the text (as Outlook does for unread mail)
  • Adding an asterisk next to the name column of the row
  • Adding an icon, either as a new column or in addition to the name column of the row
  • Using colors (scared of this due to color blindness)

Also, there are a couple questions that hint around this topic here. I don't consider this a duplicate, as I'm speaking more of the generic paradigm where they're talking about a specific problem.

In a long list of customers, how can I efficiently mark which have been edited?

An icon indicating something has changed or been edited?

  • 2
    Can the user cancel/abandon the changes without saving?
    – Matt Obee
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 20:34
  • 1
    Is there a reason that the data isn't being saved as soon as the edit is made? Why is someone editing the data? Why does a user need to see which rows will be saved - is there a specific reason for that? Is the interface on desktop, on web or on mobile? Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 0:13
  • It's a desktop application (WPF). Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 19:24
  • @MattObee, yes you can abandon without changing.
    – JoeB
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 13:42

6 Answers 6


here is what I do.

  1. Bold text
  2. Place an asterisk i.e red in color

enter image description here

Here BANKACC_ACCTYPE is a row that is editted. I have shown only one column here.


The year is 2012, it's time to save edited items as soon as they are changed. No need to make users even think about stuff like that.

  • Agreed, however, I'd still suggest some way of indicating that something has been changed in the past few moments. Users want to know that their change has gone through. While it may be 2012, there might be too many other applications that don't follow this pattern, so that this wouldn't be immediately recognized by users.
    – NotSimon
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 21:35
  • 8
    That's a really silly statement. Not because the technology is ready, it mean we always need to use it. In many cases Auto save is not an option. For example, what if the user accidentally erases the whole field, or is if the field is incomplete. Users should also have the ability to commit the changes when it is ready. Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 0:04
  • Guys, have you ever seen any indication of what has been changed using Excel or Google Docs? Well there's a reason for that!
    – Denzo
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 1:43
  • 1
    @Denzo Yeah, but that is the expected functionality for Excel and Google Docs. Users don't necessarily expect that. Also, we don't know whether there's undo functionality within the app, which Excel and Google Docs do have.
    – NotSimon
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 2:33
  • 1
    @Simon If there's no undo functionality the author of the question should spend time on implementing it instead of spending time on implementing a very non intuitive interface from the 90's. Let's strive for fixing the core of the problem as oppose to creating an interface solution for a crippled system.
    – Denzo
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 9:01

Doing nothing is also an option. That's what windows does.


  1. Outlook's Manage Rules and Alerts. You can add or edit rules and alerts but they look the same as the others.
  2. Click properties on a file or folder and go to the security tab. If you add/delete/edit anything you don't get any special treatment for changes.

Other editable controls besides grids don't get marked if you edit them. They only get some sort of marking if they fail validation. Seems like you'd want to be consistent.

  • 3
    Plus it has the added benefit of being easy to implement! :)
    – JoeB
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 21:02

To address your statement, "scared of this due to color blindness":

I know its only anecdotal, but I have a strong red-green color blindness, and have never had any issues with color error messages, forms, etc. Now if you were asking me to read red text on a green background, or pick from light green and brown, there would be a usability issue - but for everyone, not just colorblind people.

Actual non-ability to see colors is very rare, and IMHO, applying bold as in @Amandeep Jiddewar's answer also solves that problem by adding color and contrast.

/rant/ The most common question I get when people find out I'm color blind is, "What color is this?" pointing to something in the room. It doesn't affect most people that way


There is no reason why you couldn't do multiple visual indicators per field. For example, make the field a different background color and add some kind of indicator (*, icon, etc.). This way, its pretty obvious that something has changed, the user can quick scan and find the changed items, and you would satisfy any colorblind users.


In my opinion, just an asterisk, at the header of the column, will do do job..

An asterisk in a grid usually denotes that there is something else to be done. You can also include a simple line of text at the bottom saying "You have uncommitted changes"

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