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Is it more appropriate to use "Deselect All" or "Select None" or some other phrase to indicate the opposite of "Select All"?

Context: A toggle button in an iOS app UIToolbar that will select all items on screen, then change title to indicate it will clear the selected state of all items. Note that space is limited as there will be multiple buttons in the toolbar (so I wouldn't use "Clear Selection").

One option could be to only use "All" then change it to "None" but users may not know it'll modify selection state. Another complexity is there is also a "Range" button which allows selecting a range of items. So it too is related to selection state yet it's not titled "Select Range" due to the limited space. Could these be replaced with icons instead of text? I could add a non-interactive label that reads "Select:" but I've never seen that on a toolbar I don't believe.

Is there anything on iOS that implements this functionality? Being consistent with the system would be best.

  • If you manually selected all the items, will clicking that button deselect them, or keep them selected? If you selected all items with this button, can you deselect individual items afterwards? And if you do, and then click that button again, will it deselect the rest, or will it again select all? – celtschk Aug 31 '14 at 9:43
  • Just a random idea I just got: What if instead of a "Select All" button you make an "Apply to all" button, which will cause a subsequent action to be applied not just to the item you did it on, but to all items? So if after selecting "apply to all", you select an item, all items get selected, while if after selecting "apply to all" you deselect an item, then all items are deselected. – celtschk Aug 31 '14 at 9:47
  • What about changing the color button? – William Edwards Aug 31 '14 at 10:40
  • @celtschk If you manually select them all, the button changes to the deselect all state and tapping it deselects all. If you select all items via the button you can individually deselect some. Once not all items are selected it goes back to the select all state and therefore tapping it will select all. Pretty intuitive I think. I don't think an Apply to All button would be as intuitive. (Apply what?) – Jordan H Aug 31 '14 at 15:46
  • On the other hand, an accidental "Select all" will be hard to undo if some items had been selected before. While an "apply to all" button upon accidental selection could simply be deselected again before any action has been performed. Anyway, I don't claim there's something wrong with your choice. The first comment was just to understand the exact behaviour (because that determines which visual cues are helpful/detrimental; for example I don't think Benny Skogberg's suggestion would work well with the behaviour you described). And the second comment was just what it said: A random idea. – celtschk Aug 31 '14 at 16:08
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The "icon" you're looking for is the checkbox button. The label shouldn't change title though, since a checkbox button indicate "true" when checked, and "false" when unchecked. Changing the label would only lead to confusion, and you wouldn't want that.

  • I do display a checkmark on every single selected item or an open circle if the item isn't selected (allowing them to be selected individually). Are you suggesting adding that same checkmark to the toolbar - a circle when all items are selected to indicate this button deselects, and a checkmark otherwise to indicate this button selects? Do you believe users would know that's what the buttons will do, and know it will affect every item on screen? Do you know of an app that does this? – Jordan H Aug 31 '14 at 5:22
  • @Joey Yes. All apps which can select items individually does this if the UX is correct. Add another always visible row that says Select All. – Benny Skogberg Aug 31 '14 at 8:12
  • Can you provide an example? Photos allows selecting multiple photos individually but there's no Select All functionality. – Jordan H Aug 31 '14 at 15:48
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How about Unselect All? (or if you don't want to have 2 different labels for different states, Toggle Selection).

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