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Soft Key and Menu Guidelines

Windows Mobile 6.5
4/19/2010

Soft keys display menus and menu commands. The soft keys appear on a soft key bar located at the bottom of the screen. The soft key bar, part of the device shell UI, is located at the bottom of the screen and contains two soft key buttons. These buttons display an action and a menu to the user that are context sensitive and can be changed dynamically by an application. For example, in the Contacts list view, the soft keys are New and Menu. As the user begins creating a new contact in edit view, the soft keys change to Done and Menu.

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Beginning with the Windows Mobile 6.5.3 release, soft keys have been replaced by touchable tiles.

On Windows Mobile Standard, a user selects a soft key by pressing the corresponding hardware button located immediately below the key. On Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic a user selects a soft key by tapping it on the screen.

For more information about device hardware, see Mobile Device Hardware.

In general, the soft key bar should always be present to enable users to access the soft input panel (SIP) on Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic.

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The soft key bar replaces the menu bar included in previous versions of Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic.

Use the following guidelines when you include soft keys and menus in an application:

  • The left soft key can display a label even when the right soft key does not display a label.
  • When a menu command applies to most of the screen elements currently displayed, disable it when it doesn't apply. If a menu command applies to only a few of the screen elements, remove it when it doesn't apply.
  • A menu command is equal to 1 item and a divider is equal to 1/2 item. The maximum number of commands that should appear in a menu are:
    • 11 entries on Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic to support 240 pixel height.
    • 8 entries on Windows Mobile Standard to support 176 pixel height.
  • Scrolling menus are discouraged.
  • Submenus should be used judiciously. Creating a submenu of a submenu is strongly discouraged.
  • Mnemonics are shown on a menu when a keyboard is present for Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic. Creating and hand-tuning mnemonics is encouraged. If you do not provide mnemonics, the device will auto-assign them. For more information, see Mnemonics Guidelines.
  • On Windows Mobile Standard, numbered access is assigned to menu commands from top to bottom, 1 through 9 or if necessary, 1 through 0. Numbered access is also supported for commands on a submenu; numbering starts at 1. If possible, always assign the same number to a command. Consistent numbering enables users to perform common tasks more quickly.

The following image shows numbered access for Windows Mobile Standard.

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When supporting shortcut keys on Windows Mobile Professional or Windows Mobile Classic, be consistent with other applications. Do not display shortcut keys in the application menus. For more information, see Shortcut Key Guidelines.

Menu commands should be organized in the order listed in the following table. Place menu commands in order beginning at the top of the menu.

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If your application has more than nine common commands, use the left soft key to provide a second menu. If both the left soft key and right soft key provide a menu, the menu names should be based on the commands that are displayed.

Command Description

Most likely action

The most useful non-destructive command should appear on the left soft key (SK1) and should not be repeated in the right soft key (SK2) menu.

Second most likely action

The second most likely action should appear at the top of the menu, for example New, Play, View, Delete, or Print.

Edit commands

Order these commands as follows: Cut, Copy, Paste, and other specialized Paste commands, followed by Clear and Select All.

View commands

Include commands that change the user's view of data but do not modify the data. Also include commands that control the display of interface elements, for example Show Address Bar.

Other commands

Include other commands supported by the object, such as Find/Replace, Zoom, and Send Via Email.

Options commands

Place the options command at the bottom of the menu and precede it with a separator.

Command type Description

Stated items

Selection of a stated command activates a property and leaves other properties available for activation.

Use state menu commands only when both states are clearly opposite and unambiguous. If the functionality associated with the commands doesn't need to be accessible from a menu, consider using a check box instead. For more information, see Check Box Guidelines.

Grouped options

Selection of a grouped option results in other options being automatically deselected. These options are visually grouped by a separator above and below.

Use grouped options when the number of options is relatively small, and when only one option may be chosen at any given time. When the number of options is large, consider placing the options in a submenu. If the options don't need to be immediately available to the user, consider placing these options under the Options command.

Commands requiring user input

Every command that opens a window should include an ellipsis on Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic.

The following illustrations show how stated items, grouped options, and commands requiring input are implemented on Windows Mobile devices.

Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic
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Windows Mobile Standard
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The items shown on the soft key bar vary depending on the current user interface (UI) displayed. These different soft key bar states are described in the following table.

Current UI Soft key bar state

Dialog box

On Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, the bar is empty with the exception of the SIP. On Windows Mobile Standard, the bar displays one of the following sets of Soft keys:

  • Done and Cancel
  • Done

Notifications available

On Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, the SIP is shown on the bar.

If a menu is not required, the soft keys show the most common commands based on the notification. The following are examples of common commands for notifications:

  • OK
  • Accept and Reject
  • Dismiss and Snooze
  • View and Dismiss

Wizards

On Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, the SIP is shown on the bar.

The soft keys the following commands based on the current wizard screen:

Left soft key

  • Cancel on the first screen
  • Back on all subsequent screens

Right soft key

  • Next on all screens except the last screen
  • Finish on the last screen

Use the following guidelines for soft key labels:

  • For Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, soft keys are divided into two equal parts and labels are centered within that space. The right soft key area is smaller due to the SIP.
  • For Windows Mobile Standard, soft keys are divided into two equal parts and labels are centered within that space.
  • Limit soft key labels to one word.
  • For the menu label on Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, use the 8pt Tahoma bold font and title capitalization. For the menu command labels, use the 9pt Tahoma bold font and title capitalization.
  • For the menu and menu command labels on Windows Mobile Standard, use the 10pt Nina bold font and title capitalization.

Consider the following development conditions when you include soft key controls in an application:

  • Applications should use the left soft key to provide access to the most likely user action and the right soft key to display the menu of commands.
  • The soft key bar contains a maximum of 2 entries or soft key buttons (one for each soft key) but can contain only 1 entry.
  • The soft key bar with SIP must be displayed at all times on Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile Classic, even if empty.

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