The Dialog Boxes

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Unless you use your computer only for playing games or only for surfing the Net, you will come across the dialog boxes all the time. Since computers cannot talk, it is through the dialog boxes that the computer communicates with you. Until such time when talking and hearing computers will be introduced, you will have to tell the computer through the dialog boxes what exactly you want it to do. If we do not know sign language, the only way we can communicate with a deaf and dumb person is by writing notes. In computing, the dialog boxes are like note pads. The computer asks you what do you want to do? You write back your answer.

Look at the following dialog box.

Shut Down Windows dialog box.
Shut Down Windows dialog box.

In the above dialog box, Windows is asking you a direct question. You just have to write back your answer. Windows also asks only multiple choice questions. You just have to select the right answer by checking a box or choosing between Yes and No, or sometimes between OK and Cancel, and that's it. No lenghthy reply is necessary.

Take another example:

File Download dialog box.
File Download dialog box.

Another direct question. You have chosen to download a file. Windows wants to know what do you want to do with the file? It also suggests two possible answers. Just click on the radio button next to the answer of your choice and hit OK. What is so difficult about it?

In the above illustration, you have chosen to save the file (it is a program file) to disk. So Windows will want to know next save as what? So, next you will get the Save As dialog box as shown below.

Save As dialog box.
Save As dialog box.

In this dialog box, you just have to fill in the three variables as marked, and as discussed in complete details here.

Suppose you want to edit a file that you created earlier in your word processor. So in your word processing program's menubar, you click on File and then click on Open. Immediately, you will get a dialog box similar to the one shown below.

Open dialog box
Open dialog box.

You have to specify correctly the folder's name and the file's name (including file extension) and hit open for the program to open the desired file. If you are not sure how to open a file, detailed instructions are available here. By the way, as I am creating this Web page document on Windows Notepad, I made the above screenshot using Notepad's Open dialog box. If your word processor is Word or Word Perfect your Open dialog box may look a little fancy, but basically it is the same thing!

So now you know why Windows uses dialog boxes. It is the only way Windows can communicate with you. Without knowing your intentions or preferences it cannot serve you.

By the way, dialog boxes are actually windows. They all have at least a titlebar with a title written on it. Many offer an X button on the right side of the titlebar to close the window. It is just a convention to call them dialog boxes, and not dialog windows.

Quick Quiz:
When a dialog box opens on your desktop, why do you not see its button on the taskbar?

Answer: Because dialog boxes are not programs. Only the buttons of opened programs appear on the taskbar.


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