When using standard Android apps (like Gmail) which have multiple items to select, a contextual action bar (CAB) comes up showing a checkmark (tick) and some other information (such as "3 selected").

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The problem comes in with the behaviour of the checkmark / tick, which clears the selection. In fact the Android Design Guidelines state:

Dismiss the CAB via the navigation bar's Back button or the CAB's checkmark button. This removes the CAB along with all selection highlights.

This seems to go against the standard of using an X icon to clear, which is used everywhere that I can see other than selections.

What is the reason for using a checkmark instead of the standard X icon to clear a selection? Would it be improved with the X icon instead?
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3 Answers 3


That is a good question. I have thought about it a bit and retyped my answer a couple of times now :). I didn't design that component naturally so I can only hypothesize as to why the check mark is used.

My assumption is that the check mark is not used because it is a standard visual representation for a selection in a list, but rather to mark your current action complete in an affirmative sense rather than a negative one. If you have an 'X', the user may take it in more of a negative/destructive connotation and possibly have considered that clicking the 'X' might delete their selections or something similar.

While I don't agree with the choice either, that's the best rationale I could think of for this design choice.

  • 3
    This is pretty similar to what I would've answered so I'll leave this here instead of in a separate answer. The check symbol isn't so much a clear or cancel icon as much as it is a "done" button. Some CAB menus allow you to take multiple actions before going away. The check mark is there for the user to indicate that they are done performing contextual actions. Having an X would denote that they're attempting to cancel the actions they have taken which isn't how the button works. Mar 18, 2013 at 20:29
  • FWIW, on tablets, the checkmark is accompanied by the label "DONE" Mar 19, 2013 at 12:45

GotDibbs, I agree that I don't agree with Google's choice... But seriously, I think that the paradigms already in place would not have worked in this situation because you are selecting the whole list item without a check box of any type. Maybe greyed out lines for an icon to represent unselected list items would be more understandable. I don't know; just throwing out an idea.

To your point, JohnGB, using an x may infact have led to an understanding by the user that they would be "clearing" or "x'ing out" the selected items. While there is a trash can in the bottom menu bar, this "x" still may have caused some confusion.


X is one of the most risky symbols which changes its meanings over a wide range of possibilities including "Delete" which is one of the most risky operations. If I was using this app for the first time, I would translate X as "delete button" instead of deselecting my selection. Because of the same, Android has rephrased their "DESELECT" operation as "IM DONE WITH SELECTION" and replaced it with Tick-mark which does the job. This tick mark had confused me a little but it was nevertheless less confusing than what an X would have been.

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