Guidelines on capitalization in Audacity dialogs and messages

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Revision as of 11:41, 12 June 2016 by PeterSampson (talk | contribs) (Use title caps for:: redundant (ed)note removal)
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Peter 10Jun16: This page is a set of draft guidelines for when and where to use capitalization in the Audacity GUI.

The initial guidelines are taken from the Microsoft guidelines - we can all comment here on what if anything we want to change.

I'm deliberately using note divs rather than ednote divs as some non-editors may well be reading and wanting to comment on the content of this page - and they should be able to see all the notes.
Work in Progress...

Correct capitalization helps readers identify important words and breaks in text. Two styles of capitalization appear in user interfaces:
  • title caps (also referred to as book title capitalization) and
  • sentence caps (also known as sentence-style capitalization).
There is a Quick Reference image to illustrate the guidelines.


  • Gale +1 to adopt these guidelines with the exception that "Web and Web-like page titles" and "Tooltips" (we don't distinguish these from Infotips) should use sentence capitalization. Using sentence caps for tooltips makes it easier for Status Bar text (which MS suggests should use sentence caps) to be identical with tooltip text. However many tooltips will automatically have the same title caps as the menu item they refer to, and that should be one of our rules.
    • Peter: OK, I moved "Web and Web-like page titles" and "Tooltips" to Sentecnce Capitalization
  • Gale +1 for where we use title caps, always capitalize the first and last word. Apple does this too so we would be out of step if we did not.
    • Peter: OK, I struck-out my objection
  • Peter: @Gale - what do you think about removing "File names" from these guidelines as we are wildly inconsistent - and I don't see us fixing such inconsistencies either in the app or its distribution packages ;-)

Title Caps

Peter 10Jun16: Vaughan wrote in a related email thread: "Fwiw, I was schooled in Apple's HIG, where every dialog heading is considered more or less like a book chapter title, so all nouns and verbs capitalized."

Capitalize the first letter of the first and last words. Capitalize the first letter of all words in between, with the exception of articles (a, an, and the); coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet); and prepositions of four letters or fewer (at, for, with, into, etc.).

Use title caps for:

  • Menu names and menu commands
  • Button names
  • Toolbars and toolbar button labels
  • Title bar text (for dialog boxes)
  • Column headings
  • Command button labels
  • Floating toolbars - although we can float our Audacity toolbars, we do not label or title them (except with hover-text)
If file names are included in elements that use title caps, the file name should be capitalised exactly as it is. So the title bar of the dialog to browse for Lame correctly says "Where is lame_enc.dll?" and does not capitalize any part of the file name.

We do not appear to have the following entities in Audacity. They are retained here in case we introduce them in the future

  • Tab titles
  • Palette titles - we may get these later if and when we reintroduce theming or color choices for track name display on the waveform
  • Icon labels - we do not currently label any of our icons in Audacity
  • Web and Web-like navigational elements (unless prohibited by the page design)


  • Rescan Audio Devices
  • Bass and Treble
  • Check for Updates
  • Regular Interval Labels

Sentence Caps

Capitalize only the first letter of the first word, and capitalize only those other words that are normally capitalized in sentences, such as proper nouns. Proper nouns include explicit Audacity entities such as Track Control Panel, Transport ToolBar, Scrub Bar, etc. Although these text strings may form complete sentences they are never terminated with a period (full-stop) in the Audacity GUI.

Use sentence caps for:

  • Check box labels
  • Text box labels
  • Option (radio) button labels
  • Tooltips
    • Note: Where the tooltip is a button that operates a menu item, the tooltip should use the title caps of the menu item. For example if we wanted to be verbose the Trim button tooltip could say "Trim Audio - keep only the selected audio".
  • Infotips - An Infotip just seems to be a tooltip with a longer description, according to
Gale 11Jun16: Should infotips that are a sentence end with a period? The Selection Toolbar tooltips are inconsistent about this. Hover title text in the Manual is not closed with a period unless there are two sentences, because there is a (weak) consensus this looks better.
  • Peter 12Jun16: Actually we are not very consistent about this - just look at the front page for starters. Personally I would always prefer any full sentence in use cases for sentence caps to be terminated with a period. But then maybe this should be the case for Info Tips (which may have multiple sentences) but not for Tool Tips, which are short and terse - I would vote for this approach.
  • Status bar tips and messages
  • Messages
  • Dialog box introductory or explanatory text
  • List box entries
  • List box labels
  • Group box labels
  • Web and Web-like page titles
  • ..................................

    • Alternate text (ALT text) used to describe images
    Peter 11Jun16: In Audacity I don't think we have ALT text to describe images. Note that we currently do not observe these Microsoft guidelines in regard to the filenames that we generate in Audacity for things like configuration files or AutoSave filenames - nor in our files for Audacity releases - so maybe we should omit the File names entry.
    • Gale 11Jun16: I added a note about not captializing file names in elements that take title caps. I think "File name" above this note could be removed, yes.
      • Peter: Done - removed it


    • Retain labels if selection snaps to a label edge
    • Click and drag to select audio
    • Ergonomic order of Transport Toolbar buttons

    Quick Reference

    This at-a-glance reference demonstrates when and where to capitalize in the UI.

    Capitalization guidelines.gif

    See also