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I have a CSV file that is used for marking users against columns which is imported into an application. The administrators will mark cells with a specified character to denote a selection. What is the most suitable character to use that would make most sense to a user for selection? A number of options I have considered are:

  • Any character denotes a selection
  • The number '1'
  • The letter 'y' (this may implicitly lead the user to entering 'n' for the other column and is not global)
  • I have no idea, whatsoever, what did you ask. Can you rephrase the question it a bit? – PatomaS Mar 5 '14 at 11:33
  • Thanks, I've rephrased the second sentence to make it a question. – Calum Mar 5 '14 at 11:55
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    There are several ways to interpret the question, could you add a picture or diagram to clear it up? – bendataclear Mar 5 '14 at 14:32
  • Aren't cells in CSV files separated by commas? I'm confused as to what you're asking. – Hynes Mar 5 '14 at 15:42
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It really should be dependant on the requirements of the application consuming the CSV file, and the actual data type you're using.

It sounds like you are using a boolean (yes/no, on/off, etc.)

It sounds like the users may be using notepad or excel to use the data in a raw form? If that's the case - you need to talk to users - what are they expecting? How is the data column presented to them?

If it is presented as a Yes/No question, then Y/N is appropriate - but be aware that this is culturally dependant (it might not be intuitive to a non-english user).

Otherwise a "*" or "#" and blank might be appropriate... but be aware that if your CSV file is used by other applications these might cause them to go horribly wrong. Another option might be to use the "Character Map" application (with Windows systems) to find a character like "⋄" - but if you do that, remember to test on the target app to make sure it doesn't just look weird to the user.

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If you want to edit the actual csv file in a text-editor so that only the relevant columns are imported i would suggest that you perhaps use a *

The * has been used in various text-based systems to indicate selection, but it also used in various GUI's to attract attention from the user.

Marking only the columns you are interested in with a * will lead to an intuitive understanding that these columns are different from the rest, and by using the system the user will be able to see and understand the difference.

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