I am looking for a sentence or two to define the word "parse" to a non-technical user.

The file they upload may contain three types of lines and I need to recognize the type and parse accordingly.

What would be a good definition / explanation of "parse"?

They know what Load File means (button).
Then they Parse (button) and examine the output.
If the output looks correct they know they can Upload (button).
Some of the input is trashed such that the rules don't pick it up and needs visual inspection. They may even still Upload if it is not perfect.

I am just trying to describe what this Parse button does at an abstract semi-technical level. If this belongs on another site then let me know. Not looking for help on how to lay out the page.

Thanks for all the freedback and so appreciate the UX side. I have some non-technical users and on the other end it has to stand up to technical rigor. I get you are probably going to hate this be so far I have gone with

Parse is a computer term for breaking down a structured or semi structured file   
Much like you might break down a sentence
  • 5
    Why have a "Parse" button at all? Why not parse the file directly upon loading the file?
    – Geier
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:42
  • 2
    We need more context. What is the user doing with this file. What is their objective.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:36
  • 8
    If the user doesn't even know what parsing is, then why are you exposing them to that information in the first place? It's not good UX to expose the user to information they don't understand and don't need to know.
    – Ajedi32
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:46
  • 2
    @Frisbee I understand what you are asking. But for this to be a UX question, we really do need to understand the bigger picture here. Context is everything. If you're simply looking for a generic definition, then I don't think this is a UX question and probably belongs on english.se
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:23
  • 2
    I know, and I don't mean to purposefully frustrate you, but realize you are asking a bunch of UX people. And UX people will likely tell you to not use the technical term in the first place if it has to be defined for people to understand it. As such, I don't think this is a UX question. I do strongly suggest asking this over on english.se You might get a better answer there.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 1:00

5 Answers 5


For your purposes, parse can be defined as: converting data that is in one format into another format that the computer prefers. You might add that some data may be lost in the conversion.

  • Like that definition. Don't lose anything as nothing the thrown out. If the line does not parse they just get the raw input. Kind of why I need them to have a basic understanding of parse.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:28

How about "when you upload the file, our program will interpret and process the information, creating the most appropriate layout"? Or a different phrase touching on the input, processing, and output? "Our program" may not be the correct description depending on what you are working on.

  • Not trying describe what the overall program does. Just the word Parse. They are ware of the the input and output. They are aware to not upload if the output looks wrong. It is not the most appropriate layout - it is right or wrong.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:03
  • 2
    Could you just use "process and interpret the information"?
    – Andy
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:04
  • Maybe that is the best way to go about it. I am not a UX guy. I come at it from the technical side. I am looking for something a little more technical. My users seem to like a feel for what is actually going on - in control.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:18
  • @Frisbee What are the three types of lines? Integer and two others?
    – Andy
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:23
  • Integer is an external example. I am not trying to describe the overall program or even how THIS parse works. What would be a good definition / explanation of the word "Parse" for non-technical users?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 19:31


If it is absolutely necessary to separate the actions of uploading and parsing, then I recommend you say something like we will attempt to read your file with the following settings above the form to set the parsing options.

It's a simple metaphor, that any user who can read the instruction is guaranteed to understand.

  • Simple metaphor ANY user guaranteed to understand? Not my users.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:21
  • 1
    What I meant was that if they can read, they'll know what the word "read" means. Something you can't say for "interpret", "parse" or "analyze". It doesn't have to be technically correct, it needs to convey the message well enough that users will understand that this is what they're looking for. The behavior of the application and the associated form will tell them the rest. If you are worried that users will misinterpret the message, you should do some quick testing with a paper mockup.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:35
  • It is an app that does a lot of advanced stuff for non-technical users and we pick specific terms. Some times technical and some times not technical but try an be consistent. We have search, analytics, score, match, and predict. Parse is unique and something they have not done before in this application. We will use parse as a verb in other contexts so want to introduce the term properly.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:50
  • @Frisbee I see. Then I misunderstood your question, sorry. I thought you were looking for something to replace parse, rather than explain it. "To read a file" might still suffice as an explanation, but it may be too simple for your context. Paper testing should help decide between your favorite options.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:57

"Process" may be the most accurate word for "parse" but you can also see whether "Analyze," "Inspect," or "Examine" can work for your users. It's a little more common to see those on buttons on some of the tools that I've seen.

Best way is try it out with a user and see whether it makes sense to them. I'd probably keep the button to a one word verb and optionally put descriptive text under it.

The descriptive text can read: "Click the Analyze button to verify the format, layout, and accuracy of your file. You may upload the file with the suggested corrections once complete."

Although you're really doing things like "pattern-recognition," I would venture to guess that your non-technical users wouldn't care about that level of detail. You'll probably lose them if you name the button "Parse" too.

  • I am not looking for another word. I am looking for definition to Parse.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:23
  • 2
    You may want to rename the title of this question to what you are exactly seeking Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:25
  • "What would be a good definition / explanation of Parse?" "I am just trying to describe what this Parse button.."
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:25
  • added some sample text Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 20:36

I think the easiest definition is to analyze a string of information into its parts and describe their syntactic roles.

  • Syntactic roles is not the right direction.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:22
  • This answer functions more as a comment. If you can please elaborate on your answer.
    – Mayo
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:31

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