I want to explore a modern approach to exporting data from an application which has become popular on mobile devices. Historically we'd have a button in our desktop applications:

export Export

That might then open another dialog with options and allow you to save a file. In almost every case, the next user action would be to open that file with another application, for example a CSV file might be opened in Excel.

But on mobile and tablets, the file system is typically hard to use and so a new concept arose.

share Share

This takes the user right past the 'save to file system' step and directly opens the appropriate application with the right data. If necessary, the user can still 'save as...' that data to a file, but more likely they will just continue their work. Behind the scenes the file would be saved to some tmp folder to make it all work.

In my application, users are already confused between 'export' and 'print report', and 'CSV' doesn't really mean much to non-technical users other than that they have learnt to equate it with 'Excel'.


  • What problems do you see with this approach?
  • If a user chooses "share with Excel" and is then presented with a dialog to choose options (perhaps date ranges or even the export columns) does that break the metaphor?
  • How might I handle users with OpenOffice or other preferred CSV tools? I'm targetting both Windows and OSX, and so far technical solutions to locate tools aren't trivial
  • Should I keep a "share with file" option to ease the migration?
  • Any thoughts about the UX implications of moving from Export to Share and skipping the disk saving step?

Edit: I've mocked up an example of the choices you might get under 'share'.

share menu

They are indicative only (the choices will depend on what part of the program you are in) but starts to show the relationship between exporting and other sharing-like activity.

2 Answers 2


SHARE and EXPORT cannot be used interchangeably,and if you do so you run a great risk of confusing your userbase.

Share is used to SHARE information online with other people.

For example: social networks,email,etc

On the other hand EXPORT is used to save your work in a way/a format that a normal save cannot achieve

For example: saving a photoshop work will give you a psd file,exporting is used to get other SHAREABLE formats.

Mobile applications are tricky,but in my opinion saving a file goes FIRST then you can have a dialog whether or not you want to SHARE the file.

Dont combine functionality!

  • 1
    Its almost like you didn't read past the title of my question. Are you able to identify a single mobile application with an "export" option or do they all now use "share' as the paradigm? Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 7:49

Edit: I just see these answers are very old, so it is expected that the ideas about this were different back then.

There is clearly a trend of unifying Share and Export into one system of "Bring this data out of my application to somewhere else".

If that would be the local FileSystem, Dropbox or some other person is irrelevant.

If I want to send the data to somewhere else why would I need the in-between step of creating a file and then dragging it to Whatsapp or Email?

I think that is going to feel very outdated soon.

I found this question because I am exploring this myself and was looking for inspiration.

One thing I would recommend is making it a dialog with several options instead of making it a simple ContextMenu.

So you have a medium (PDF/CSV/XLSX/RTF) and a target Save to FileSystem/Open with OS/Whatsapp/etc.

So something like:

Share and Export

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About the OpenOffice thing - I would recommend just using the default associated applications and extensions and not think about it. Just tell the OS: "Open this file".

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