This question arose suddenly as I was implementing some new features in my app. Maybe I`m just overthinking this one, so I hope you can help me make things clearer =)

The question
When user takes data from some object and copies\imports it to currently edited object of the same type, what icons and wording suits better: copy from or import? Does it even matter?

Context and question explained
I`ll try to explain this using made up example (original context is harder to explain).
Say we have several school classes with some students in each one. And we have an app that allows us to manage todays grades of the students, one class at a time, for example showing us a grid with a row for each student and column for each subject, with todays grades in the cells.
And by some strange reason we have a requirement that grades from one class can be copied\imported to other class, and for that we have a button in toolbar that shows a wizard with following steps:

1) Select other class;
2) Link each student from that other class to each student of currently edited class, one to one, leaving out leftover if any class is bigger;
3) Copy\import grades using provided links;

Subjects are the same for every class, so that should be enough for our needs. In this example the question would be which wording, tooltips and icons to use: import grades from other class or copy grades from other class.

Initially I thought about it as importing, because copying usually means that current object is used as source. But still this operation is copying. So in the end I`m just a bit confused about difference between copying and importing, and whether there`s really a difference in my context and should I really care.

2 Answers 2


If you copy something (as you would do with a copying machine) then you have an identical image of something you can start working on in the same environment.

Whereas if you import something, your also copying an object but instead it might not fit in to the environment you intend to use it in. Either your copy gets transformed or you have to transform/shape it manually for it to fit in to the intended destination workspace.

  • 'Fitting' part is interesting, in my context I have that (using my example, some students can be incompatible, so import may succeed only for some).
    – icebat
    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:07
  • Then 'import' it is ;-)
    – uxfelix
    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:09

Copy from sounds strange to me and import implies this button will get some data from outside of the system.

I would name it use grades from other class or get grades from other class

  • 1
    Thanks, @K..! Didn`t think about 'outsideness' of import =)
    – icebat
    Nov 20, 2013 at 8:58
  • 1
    Liked your suggestions but went along with import as it`s a bit clearer than get or use in context of my app, and that some items may not fit on import as uxfelix suggested.
    – icebat
    Nov 21, 2013 at 7:46
  • no hard feelings :)
    – K..
    Nov 21, 2013 at 8:35

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