I'm looking for a way to allow the user to perform a search quickly & easily, most of the time using saved searches with relative dates. Frequently the user will want to perform ad-hoc searches using a few common search criteria (don't worry about the labels - these are examples only). Suffice it to say that a date range, combo boxes and text boxes are all possible input controls for the ad-hoc criteria.

It looks similar to this:

Screen shot of Winform with Saved Search Checkbox and Add Hoc Search Filters

The screen defaults the Saved checkbox = true and the user can select from a list of previously saved searches. The ellipsis allows the user to manage the saved searches. The search button is enabled when a saved search is selected.

When the user deselects the Saved check box the ad hoc filters are enabled, and the Search button is enabled when enough of the criteria are entered.

This works well and allows for a minimum of keystrokes to get your job done, and works well once you've used it a few times, but isn't a great user experience for the new user.

How can we more visually separate the Saved vs Ad Hoc search workflow without giving up screen real-estate? We tried a few radio button layouts, but we decided this design worked better for experienced users, showing as many row results as possible.

  • Why is the search button not active? Why do the need to check the save checkbox? When they select a saved search that means they selected a saved search. And WinForms?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 22:31
  • Search may be expensive. With this control the user can use up/down arrow to move through the saved searches and press "Enter" to perform the search. And WinForm? Yuuup, livin the legacy code dream. :)
    – Shmoken
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


In my humble opinion as the comments go my first reaction to this winform is that this something of the past and I should get out of here as soon as possible. It's nearly scary! BUT if the app is targeting a forum of guys who are madly in love with the windows xp(erience) then knock yourself out!

That being said let's move to your specific issue. You mentioned that you would like to save real estate and the first thing I noticed is that you are using the style of label+dropdown. Why not have the label as a hint inside the dropdown box?

Now that we have saved some horizontal space let's see if we can help with the vertical space being lost. One thing that is missing in this form is an action to save the search, so I must assume that all the searches are being saved. If this is true then the saved searches are actually just past searches that perhaps you could name them from the other form that opens with the ellipsis. If all these assumptions are true then an idea would be to have the scrollable vertical area at the left where users could rapidly with the scroll of the mouse wheel go to recent searches. A small label area could be used to display the name of the search, if a name has been set.

Finally even though it is good for things to happen automagically I agree that since searches are expensive you should keep the search button. My recommendation is to have a large search button between the form and the results in order to achieve the phrase "this brings that" in a vertical order, "this" being the search form, "brings" being the search button and "that" being the results.


  • The hint instead of a label is brilliant - that saves a tremendous amount of space. Putting the search button between the search criteria and the results should be possible with the space saved by removing the labels. This was our original intent, but we didn't want to give up the vertical space. I'm not clear on what you mean by scrollable vertical area - can you explain that more?
    – Shmoken
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 16:39
  • @Shmoken my idea is to be able to spin the wheel of your mouse and go through the saved searches in a quick way. Imagine that each scroll of the mouse would bring you to the next or previous saved search. But this is merely an untested idea and nothing more :) Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 9:49

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