Application & Window Identification

Which window is which?


Enable users to identify:

  • Which app has focus
  • Which window has focus
  • Which window belongs to which app

Relevant Art

GNOME 3.28


  • Focused application is indicated by the app menu
  • Unfocused windows have a flat visual style


  • Unfocused windows have a flat visual style
  • Menu items for the focused app are shown in the menu bar. This includes the application name.
  • The layout of each header bar is fairly unique, which helps with window identification

Windows 10

  • Title bars of focused windows have a different color
  • How is focus indicated when windows don't have a titlebar?
  • Title bars often contain the application name


  • Color is used to differentiate and identify apps
  • App name is shown in the app switcher


  • In split mode, the unfocused app has a slightly different color
  • App names and icons are shown in the app switcher

Deepin Linux

  • App icon is shown on the left of the header (it's non-interactive)
  • There's no indication of the focused window

elementary OS

  • There's no consistent explicit indication of which app each window belongs to - no app name or icon is shown
  • Unfocused windows have some UI elements desaturated/dimmed


The background to this whiteboard page is our plans to drop app menus. One repercussion of this is that it might become more difficult to know which application is focused. Possible solutions here:

  1. Remove the app icon and name from the top bar, don't change anything else
  2. Continue to show the app icon and name in the top bar, for the focused app (but don't include the menu - it would be non-interactive)
  3. Show the app icon in the header bar, a bit like Deepin does
  4. Allocate a color to each app and use it in the app window to hint at the window's identity
  5. Change the design of the GNOME apps, so that each one has more of a unique UI layout

Tentative Design


See Also

Design/Whiteboards/AppWindowFocus (last edited 2018-05-31 11:09:12 by AllanDay)