I'm dealing with a space sensitive environment where I have a Save/Cancel actions that need to be icons. In the same area the user can also delete items, using something similar to the one in this link (this can't be changed unfortunately - I would like a trash can).

What are some good options for a cancel icon that is easily distinguishable from the delete icon?

closed as not constructive by Benny Skogberg, JonW May 18 '12 at 13:09

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Any actionable icon without descriptive text is probably a bad idea, just because it leads to confusion like this. Though, the most common icon I've seen for "cancel", besides the red X, is the "No" symbol:

enter image description here

(Source: http://iconfinder.net/data/icons/c9d/cancel.png)

  • Agreed. Alas I cannot fit text on the screen in this case. I'll use different shades of red, and have a tooltip, so I'll call that good enough. Thanks! – ScottR Aug 27 '10 at 22:51
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    Often on Mac the delete icon used in toolbars are a circle with a slash through. Using it for cancel may confuse Mac users if they are used to it meaning delete. – neoneye Aug 28 '10 at 0:37
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    @neoneye: I think this is bound to confuse some users in any case... – Ilari Kajaste Aug 29 '10 at 7:48

The only things that I can think of given your constraints are either a circle with a slash through it (a la no smoking signs) or a back arrow if something like that makes sense in your UI.

  • This is what I ended up doing, but Russell's linked pic has the same idea, and he answered first - so I accepted his. – ScottR Aug 27 '10 at 22:53

Can your save/cancel actions be translated as commit/abort? If so, you could pick some icons that are further away from the traditional save/cancel iconography.

  • Not really. Good thought though. I'll keep it in mind for future reference. – ScottR Aug 27 '10 at 22:51

A trashcan might be unambiguously "delete" instead of "cancel".


If the "cancelling" action could reasonable be reframed as a "closing" action, then you may have a few more choices. There are some very familiar icons used to "Close" parts of a user interface, including on the browser window you're using now.


Use the file icon and overlay the cancel button suggested by RussellUresti on top.

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