In my application, the user can filter fields by selecting one of three possible values for each field:

  • True
  • False
  • Both

I currently have a drop-down box, but this requires two clicks while the options are simple and should preferably being able to be selected by one click.

I faced the tri-state checkbox which shows either a tick, a square or nothing. However, this still sometimes requires two clicks to get from empty to square if the order is empty - tick - square.

Could someone please recommend what would be the best choice in this scenario?

  • 5
    I'd consider changing the third option to "Any". "Both" for True and False is stretching it a bit. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:00
  • @Vitaly Mijritsky: That's a much better choice concerning wording, thanks.
    – pimvdb
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 16:28

3 Answers 3


Radio buttons. This is the exact situation that they are designed for.

  • 1
    Hmm, they take in a little much space but, as you say, they are designed for cases with few and fixed values. Thanks.
    – pimvdb
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 15:52

I personally like dropdowns. Any sort of checkbox is a mistake if you can't afford to lose several important contexts, like:

  • An unchecked box doesn't mean the user picked false. It means they didn't check it. You can't tell (at a glance) whether they determined that unchecked was the correct response or if they just never bothered to look at the field. With a dropdown (or radio buttons), they HAVE to take some action to specify a response.
  • The unchecked and check states are well understood. Things like the greyed-out/disabled look are not intuitive to non-techies and they may not know what to do with it.

I like checkboxes for exceptional, uncritical behaviours - such as an opt-in to join a mailing list when signing up for something. If I'm presenting a form where I need users to specify yes or no (or N/A or both or whatever the additional states may be), I want to ensure there is no ambiguity in what the user has to do.

  • 1
    I used radio buttons because they are available by one click and due to the fact that there is a default value which is then always set. If the user doesn't bother looking at the radio buttons, it doesn't actually matter as the default option for the radio buttons doesn't do anything - things only get different when the user explicity chooses a radio button.
    – pimvdb
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:00

if radios take too much space, you can try a dropdown.

  • 1
    I'm sorry but as I stated a dropdown requires two clicks.
    – pimvdb
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 12:56
  • 3
    you should stop worrying about how many clicks an action requires and make them as natural as possible. Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 10:30

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