1. What is the proper name for the UI element created by the HTML <select>...</select>?
    Standard dropdown menu

  2. What is the name if the user is allowed to type in their own answer (not just autocomplete to pick from the existing values, but any arbitrary text)?
    Textbox with pull-down arrow

  3. How about when multiple choices are displayed at once, e.g. <select size="5">...</select>?
    Select showing multiple choices

Citations and sources are particularly favored over answers that may just be your opinion/experience.

Various terms I've heard for various combinations of these: dropdown menu, pulldown menu, drop-down list, combo box, combo list.

Edit: Here are the result counts of Googling for various exact phrases (with no indication of to what UI element they might be referring):

  • for item 1, Microsoft .net calls them combo boxes. Java also calls them combo boxes. Combo box seems to be the most widely accepted term, while the others that you listed also convey the idea. May 11, 2011 at 17:26
  • @Matt Actually, Microsoft calls them different things.
    – Phrogz
    May 11, 2011 at 17:45
  • Yes but in that link, those are all subcategories of a Combo Box. Combo Box is the parent element. In all of those instances, they begin with "CB" May 11, 2011 at 17:49

4 Answers 4

  1. Wikipedia calls this a drop-down list redirecting from "dropdown menu" or "drop-down menu".
    Java calls this an uneditable combo box.
    Microsoft calls this a drop-down list combo box.
    Mozilla XUL calls this a drop-down list (created by the <menulist> element).
    Apple HIG calls this a pop-up menu.
    Wikipedia image for drop-down list

  2. Wikipedia calls this a combo box.
    Java calls this an editable combo box.
    Microsoft calls this a drop-down combo box.
    Mozilla XUL calls this an editable menulist.
    Apple HIG calls this a combination box.
    Wikipedia image for combo box

  3. Wikipedia calls this a list box.
    Java calls this a list.
    Microsoft calls this a simple combo box.
    Mozilla XUL calls this a list box.
    Apple HIG calls this a list view.
    Wikipedia image for list box

  • #2 on THIS list, which is different that your original question's list, is a combo box, yes. If you follow the link in the wikipedia article for combo box (citation 1) cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/forms/combo.html it says that drop down lists are more often referred to as combo boxes as well. May 11, 2011 at 17:33
  • @Matt I'm confused. Why do you think that the items or ordering in list are not the same as the items or ordering in my question? Also, that link is used as the citation from Wikipedia to support the statement "The term 'combo box' is sometimes, incorrectly, used to mean 'drop-down list'."
    – Phrogz
    May 11, 2011 at 17:35
  • Because the item in your question has an additional "search maps" button May 11, 2011 at 17:36
  • 1
    But in this case, both 1 and 2 fall under the name Combo Box. If you were to use any Microsoft development technology, they would call the Combo Boxes only, not drop downs May 11, 2011 at 17:38
  • 3
    The Microsoft names create a lot of ambiguity. Remove them and "drop-down" always means #1, "list" always means #3 unless coupled with "drop-down," and "combo" always means #2 unless it's "uneditable" (Java). I would go with drop-down, combo box, and list box. May 12, 2011 at 15:29

I know, not what you want to hear, but still: From all the answers I think it's pretty clear that there is no common name for anything else than the normal dropdown.

Combo Box seems to be used by some companies and people. But do customers or stakeholders understand it? I doubt it.

So my approach would be: Just call it something that makes sense for you, explain what you mean the first time you use the term in a document (or show an example) and then use it consistently for the rest of the document. Or you could add a glossary (that only makes sense if you have more than one term to explain though).

Again, I know it's not a proper answer to your question - still hope it helps ;-)

  • Downvote without comment? :(
    – Phil
    May 12, 2011 at 18:46

@Matt have the answers on no 1 and 3, so this answer is just about the second element:

2) Autocomplete widget in XUL ( XML based User interface Language)enter image description here

  • Interestingly, your link refers to my #1 as a "drop-down menu" and Mozilla's menulist documentation calls it a "drop-down list". Mozilla's docs also say of #2 "This is rendered as a textbox with a drop-down arrow beside it."
    – Phrogz
    May 11, 2011 at 17:06
  1. Combo Box - see: www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/forms/combo.html
  2. Not sure (sorry)
  3. List Box - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_box
  • 2. Editable text box? May 11, 2011 at 16:32
  • @Benny That name, to me, does not connote that there is the 'triangle' allowing users to select from a predefined or common list of values.
    – Phrogz
    May 11, 2011 at 16:36
  • Benny has got it in his asnwer for #2 - Autocomplete widget. Some other sources are jqueryui.com/demos/autocomplete and developer.yahoo.com/yui/autocomplete May 11, 2011 at 17:28
  • Your own link for #1 says that it uses the term "Combo Box" to refer to what I describe as #2.
    – Phrogz
    May 11, 2011 at 17:33
  • @Phrogz Yes, I've always understood "combo box" to be a "combination" of #1 and a text box. May 12, 2011 at 15:18

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