When I double click any executable sh file in ubuntu, I see the pop-up showing multiple options like below

enter image description here

The strange thing to note here is that "Cancel" button lies in middle, not at either extreme. Although, it is selected by default, this is not very intuitive to me. Can you explain the logic behind?

  • Have you asked the developer? Aug 31, 2016 at 6:56
  • No. :) who is the developer? Aug 31, 2016 at 7:07
  • Weii, I guess you bought / downloaded that piece of software somewhere. I suggest you head over to that website and start looking for some contact information. Or, In that software, under Help -> About, you will most likely find some contact info. Finally, write an email and ask the same question you asked here. Don't forget to update your post with their explanation. Aug 31, 2016 at 7:19
  • 1
    no dear, that is not related to downloaded software. it happens on all shell script files in ubuntu, when I have enabled "Ask before running executable files" :) So this is some intelligent decision taken by ubuntu developers. I am sure they would have thought about it and then taken a decision. I am not doubting that. I just want to understand the UX perspective of this buttons placement. Sep 8, 2016 at 4:16

3 Answers 3


First part of my answer: Cancel - Run or Run - Cancel?

There's always the debate on whether we should use Ok - Cancel or Cancel - Ok. In this post Rahul answered the question by stating research by Jakob Nielson. OK-Cancel or Cancel-OK?

Very very short answer:

Should the OK button come before or after the Cancel button? Following platform conventions is more important than suboptimizing an individual dialog box.

Ubuntu/Linux normally uses the Cancel - Ok version so that is probably the reason why the developer grouped them together like the example you gave.

Second part of my answer: Why not put cancel on the left of the other buttons?

From a usability perspective it seems strange to put four different options in a dialog window. A dialog is normally used to answer a question with two possible answers, sometimes three. The more buttons you use, the more of a cognitive load you put on the user, and the more difficult it becomes to answer the question. So normally I would not look to improve this single dialog. Instead I would analyse the flow on how to get to this dialog and see whether we can reduce the number of options here.

Since we cannot tell why it is done like this. Not knowing the program, context, and it's developer. We cannot really answer your question. Yet based on what I'm seeing right now, 'Run in terminal' is an outlier option here since it doesn't answer the dialog window directly. It is a suboption of 'Run'.

In the dialog window the question is to select either 'Run' or 'Display'. From that perspective I would have suggested something in the line of Cancel - Run - Display.



I haven't used Ubuntu in a long time but I would guess it has a Cancel Ok logic unlike, for example, Windows. As so it is a possibility that the developers chose to leave the typical options on the right and add any extras to the left leaving the Cancel button in the middle.

This is not that uncommon. Window Ok Cancel logic also leaves the Cancel button in the middle if an Apply exists. I've never seen the design guidelines for Ubuntu (not sure if they exist but check here, here and here).

NOTE: See these question in UX for more about button ordering: Question 1, Question 2


My guess is you got this file from an unknown place to Ubuntu and the system does not trust the file, so it marked the file with a question mark.

By executing the file, this could bring harm to the system or your other files. I think the system is just merely trying to help you protect your computer by suggesting the best action.

The same happens in Mac OS, though it's not as extreme as your case. I think this is a matter of security.

enter image description here

Besides, for action that might cause big changes or is unchangeable in the future, the Cancel button usually chosen by default, in case the users just happen to trigger this dialog by mistake or if they change their mind. In my case, it is like this. Cancel is chosen by default.

enter image description here

  • It is specifically related to ubuntu. It happens with all the .sh files. even the ones which are written by myself. Aug 31, 2016 at 8:40
  • I'm not a Ubuntu user, but I answered this from my own user experience perspective. From POV, the reason why the Cancel button is chosen is because the action might cause great impacts on the systems or existed files. This helps the users to second-guess themselves before any negative consequences occur.
    – Judy Chen
    Aug 31, 2016 at 8:59

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