We're currently working on a desktop application which allows users to select up to 20 documents at once to perform operations such as delete, create PDF, email a copy etc.

As part of this, we're trying to determine a standard format for error messages for cases where multiple different errors apply, for example:

User selects 10 documents to delete -

  • 7 documents are OK to delete
  • 2 documents are checked out to another user
  • 1 document has restricted permissions and can't be deleted by you

Our standard in this scenario is to tell the user which documents they can't delete and why, how to resolve the issue, then to ask if they want to cancel or continue to delete the remaining documents that they have selected.

Whilst we're trying to check what we can upfront, and I know this is preferrable, performance issues and other technical limitations mean that in some cases we are still going to have to run the validation after the action is requested and throw an error.

Our current format for errors of this type is below, but I'm sure it can be improved and that we're not the first to come across this scenario - is there a standard way to show multiple errors for bulk operations?

**Some of the selected documents could not be deleted**

The following documents are being worked on by someone else:

 - Document1.docx
 - Document2.docx

Ensure these documents are checked in before trying again.

The following document is read only:

 - Document3.docx

Contact the folder administrator if you require access to delete this document.

Continue and delete the remaining documents you have selected? 

                                              [Continue] [Cancel]
  • Re close vote: there is nothing about this question that is even close to 'implementation' as it is intended for closing purposes. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


Question: Are there any dependencies where the user will not delete the remaining documents when they noticed that some documents cannot be deleted?

It seems like the items that can't be deleted will require extra attention, so why are we stopping the user to deal with something "trivial" like whether they want to delete the rest instead of just proceeding with deleting these and let them focus on the tricky bits?

So perhaps a warning notice like:

7 of 10 documents has been successfully deleted

Cannot delete the following documents:
* Documents are being worked on by someone else, please ensure they are checked in before trying again
** Document1.docx
** Document2.docx
* Document is read-only, contact the folder administrator if you require access to delete this item
** Document3.docx
  • good point about the possible dependancies.
    – Franchesca
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 8:01
  • In terms of dependencies, there might be, but not typically. An example might be if a user is trying to attach a set of docs to an email, so needs them all to be there. I like the approach, but the only issue is that some of the operations we are processing can take a bit of time and are going to run in the background. The idea was we'd do some validation up front so that we are sure they are going to succeed, then the user can do other things while they are waiting. I do like the '7 of 10' instead of 'some' though, it makes it a bit more obvious what is happening.
    – BOD23
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.