Forgiving Text Entry

Examples: Context:  The user should enter information, as on a Form or in a Composed Command, that may be formatted in any one of several ways.

Problem:  How does the artifact indicate what kind of information should be supplied?


Solution:  Allow the user to enter text in any recognizable format for that context.  Be forgiving of formatting idiosyncracies, formatting mistakes, or recognizable "typos."  Place the burden of normalizing the input (i.e. making it fit one format, for use or storage) onto the recipient of the information, whether that be a human or a computer.

In theory, it's difficult to make a computer do this correctly, but in practice it often turns out to be not so bad.  To illustrate, consider the fact that most Web browsers these days allow URLs to be entered in several different ways.  An URL such as "" can be entered that way, or as "", or even just "foo".  There is enough context for the browser to figure out what the full URL ought to be; there's no point in making the user type it all in!

Resulting Context:  Good Defaults may let the user look at the default value, judge it to be OK, and move on without even bothering to set the value; it may also help suggest what kind of input is allowed.

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Last modified May 17, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell.  All rights reserved.