I'm trying to figure out what the name of this type of element is. If the user couldn't do anything else on the screen without dealing with the element, it would be a "modal". Some might call this a pop-up.

This element points at a specific UI element and provides information about this. It's like an über tooltip. Similar to balloon help in the classic Mac OS days. I imagine this type of element is common enough there must be a specific name for it. What is that name?

Screenshot of WordPress Dashboard


It's a "pointer." Here's a how-to article for using them in WordPress plugins:

Reference: Using WordPress Pointers in Your Own Plugins

  • +1 This must be wrong, I thought, but following the link you are correct and I learnt something today! – Benny Skogberg Nov 16 '12 at 7:48
  • I've found many other places where the element in my screenshot is indeed called a "pointer" or "feature pointer". Lots of close answers to this, but I'm marking this one as answered as it is the correct answer for the screenshot I provided. – user1337 Nov 16 '12 at 20:16

Tool tip could be used, or fly out. I don't think it's yet a standard piece of UI.

  • I don't think tooltip quite works here, as it traditionally relies on the title attribute. In this case, it's a full panel that displays. The jQuery UI example is a beefed up version of a traditional tooltip. – user1337 Nov 15 '12 at 18:48
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    @user1337 I disagree, "Tooltips" quite often refer to information that is displayed outside of the document when hovering over an element. This can be a title attribute, but more commonly now you'll see examples like the one in your image above. I understand you don't necessarily want to use the word "Tooltip", but it is an appropriate use. – Daniel Meade Nov 15 '12 at 20:51
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    I just looked at 100 or so tooltip examples, and the majority is closer to the traditional meaning of the word. Apparently the name came from Microsoft, and applied specifically to text. Sometimes it has icons, sometimes now images, but generally not that complex. Secondly, you mention hover, which also seems to be a common trait of tooltips. In the screenshot above, that panel doesn't display on hover - it's onLoad. Plus I think Mark's links below pretty well describe what I'm getting at, so "popover" is like the more appropriate name. – user1337 Nov 15 '12 at 22:11
  • If I had to do a search I would definitely use "html tooltip" – Yisela Nov 16 '12 at 3:54

I'm going to say "popover" just because I've seen it in a few pattern libraries recently:


I think you're looking at this through the wrong lens. The question should be: “What is this component of the UI called in a device agnostic world?” The UI paradigm that exists in the tooltip world harkens back to the point and click days. Tooltips are a phenomena that first occurred when the title attribute was introduced into the global structure of an HTML document. This very simple GUI prompt on mouse over — as seen here —, has been fleshed out in all sorts of manner by the web design and UI community before the advent of touch. During that period it took on many permutations, even a nefarious reputation in the form of double-underlined links for advertising — Satan's spawn! Today, without the mouse over in play, modern UI folks are shifting the paradigm and calling this a popover. Pop away!


Pop-up tooltip, pop-up bubble or pop-up balloon.

  • Has the term "pop-up" fully migrated from the old days when it was a browser windows popping-up? I tried using that term some and those I mentioned it to were thinking I was talking about the traditional use of that term. – user1337 Nov 15 '12 at 18:48
  • "Pop-up" on its own would still be assumed to refer to pop-up windows or any in-page equivalent. If you want to avoid that type of confusion completely, you can simply use "tooltip". – scronide Nov 15 '12 at 19:04
  • I want to avoid reference to traditional "tooltips" as well :/ – user1337 Nov 15 '12 at 19:06
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    Ah, you're in a jam then. "Balloon" or "bubble" won't work on their own either and then you start to get into awkward descriptions. Funnily enough, I believe it is because of pop-up windows that the "pop-up" in "pop-up tooltip" now implies more than the traditional system-level line of title text. – scronide Nov 15 '12 at 19:23
  • "Advanced Tooltip" maybe? – user1337 Nov 15 '12 at 19:27

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