Primary Windows

This is work in progress content for the next version of the GNOME HIG.

Status: work in progress

Tags: window


Primary windows are the principal container for application interfaces. If its primary window(s) is closed any supplementary windows, such as Utility Windows and Dialogs, will also close. Closing an application's primary windows will typically stop that application from functioning altogether.

The top of a primary window is headed by a titlebar that contains a centered window title and a close button in the right-hand corner.

Primary windows can contain a wide variety of content and control elements. They can also contain multiple views that can be navigated between.

When to Use

Primary windows are a standard part of GNOME 3 applications, and most applications will utilise one or more of them. The exception to this is applications that are always presented in full screen mode, such as games.


  • Give the window a short, informative title. Since window titles can be truncated, ensure that the most important part of the title is at the beginning.

There are two types of primary windows:

  1. Maximizing - these are the standard variety of primary window, and are used by application that allow the browsing, viewing or editing of content.
    • The window is maximized by default and loses its titlebar when maximized
    • The window title should be a short description of the window's content, and should not include the application name
    • Maximizing primary windows will typically (though not always) contain a Primary Toolbar. Primary windows can also present multiple views or be split according to the List Pane design pattern. See the other design patterns and existing applications for examples of how your primary windows can be structured.

  2. Non-maximizing - these are relatively uncommon and are best suited to small utility applications that might want to be used in conjunction with other primary windows.
    • The window is not maximized by default and should not lose its titlebar when maximized
    • The window title should be the application name

Design/HIG/PrimaryWindows (last edited 2012-01-10 14:35:33 by AllanDay)