There are a lot of resources on the web about web applications design patterns, but only a few about desktop applications.

And this is quite strange as most of the business targeted software is (still?) desktop based.

At the same time, Apple's or Microsoft's UI guidelines are manuals of hundreds of pages, dealing with buttons width as well as air theme or icon style.

So, can you suggest me some good resource about desktop software UI patterns, informative and concrete just as Yahoo!Design Pattern Library (to name one among the many) is for webapps?

  • Thanks for this question. I've crawled the web for this kind of resources with no results... Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 12:03

5 Answers 5


You already named the definitive sources for desktop applications for the two major operating systems. Those guidelines from Apple and Microsoft are what you should be following.

  • The Apple link seems to be dead.
    – user31782
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 16:02

I agree with Charles Boyuing, however I will add that I personally follow the Microsoft Windows 7 UX Guide quite closely in order to bring consistency to my applications and have them fit in well with the rest of the Windows 7 platform. I know that in Gnome development there is the HIG and KDE has some documented guidelines but as for Apple I don't have anything better to offer you than what you already know.

Some of these guidelines are specific to a given platform or environment but a great deal of them overlap and it's in those areas I think it is good to make sure any well written app tries to follow these common conventions.

2017 Updates

Since my original answer there have been some changes in different ecosystems that I'm aware of that are worth mentioning.

Material Design

Google seems to be centering lately around the Material Design guidance with many of their web and mobile applications. With the increasing number of popular desktop applications using Electron this may be a common design language to keep an eye on.

Fluent Design

Microsoft as of late has been pushing forward with Fluent Design System as a way of move forward from the previous Metro/Modern design guidelines. Fluent Design seems to be less limiting in the types of UXs created compared to the previous Windows 8 guidance and has been used in developing new parts of the Windows 10 user interface.

  • 1
    The current GNOME guidelines you mention are getting very old and aren't very pattern-based, but FWIW we're actually in the process of producing a GNOME desktop pattern library to coincide with the GNOME 3.0 release. (We don't really have anything worth sharing as yet, but watch this space...)
    – calum_b
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 13:30

The About Face books by Alan Cooper are also good references for user interface/interaction design, especially for desktop applications.


I don't think's these answers are franz976 is looking for. All these OS UX Guides are about consistency and rules every professional UX Designer knows already and doesn't provide such broad range of examples as web UX design pattern resources does. Of course we can elaborate web application's patterns as well, but applicable for desktop applications features are still missing. I guess the cause is a smaller amount of desktop application UX designers and policies of their employers who doesn't want to share such valuable information.


this can be useful

Use this page to download the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines (or UX Guide) for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. These guidelines contain information on design principles, and guidelines for controls, commands, text, interaction, windows, messages, aesthetics, and the Windows environment. They help designers and developers create high-quality Windows applications with a consistent "look and feel."


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