In a normal windows application, I've (context) menus. Many of the items have individual icons for better recognition. Now, some of the menu items are checkable. The "standard" way of showing the checked status of an item would be a check mark left of the item label - but there is the icon for the item.

What would the "windows" way to resolve this problem?

  • A second column left of the icons to display potential check marks? (never seen this in an windows application)
  • A change of the label adding an "(active)" to the label?
  • A change of the icon itself to indicate the checked state?
  • 3
    It would be really great to see some screenshots of this for a little more clarity please
    – Chris
    Apr 2, 2015 at 9:06
  • 1
    Why not use the select state for files and items normally used within Windows? The blueish background color? Apr 2, 2015 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


In Windows menus can have either commands (Print) or options (View => Large Icons).

This is what Windows Design Guidelines for menus says about using bullets and checkmarks:

Menu items that are options may use bullets and checkmarks. Commands may not.

And on using icons:

Consider providing menu item icons for:

  • The most commonly used menu items.
  • Menu items whose icon is standard and well known.
  • Menu items whose icon well illustrates what the command does.

If you use icons, don't feel obligated to provide them for all menu items. Cryptic icons aren't helpful, create visual clutter, and prevent users from focusing on the important menu items.

Only place I've seen icons used for options is in Explorer when you choose how to view items from toolbar menu:

enter image description here

But as you can see, it doesn't use bullets to denote the selection.

Personally I wouldn't use icons for options, because it adds visual clutter to the menu.


On standard Windows, icons and checkboxes share in the same column. Thant means you cannot have both a checkmark and an icon at the same time. The following image is from a Delphi 32bit EXE, wrapping the standard Windows API - images seem to take precedence to checkmarks:

Windows Menu with icons, checkmarks and radioitems

I have seen (rarely) programs with two such columns, showing checkmarks to the left of icons, but that seems non-standard to me. I personally would prefer having two different icons (one showing a checked and unchecked state each).

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.