Toolbar from gedit allows its toolbars to be detached and moved between windows and other toolbars

In computer interface design, a toolbar (originally known as ribbon[1][2]) is a graphical control element on which on-screen buttons, icons, menus, or other input or output elements are placed. Toolbars are seen in many types of software such as office suites, graphics editors and web browsers. Toolbars are usually distinguished from palettes by their integration into the edges of the screen or larger windows, which results in wasted space if too many underpopulated bars are stacked atop each other (especially horizontal bars on a landscape oriented display) or interface inefficiency if overloaded bars are placed on small windows.

Variants and derivatives

There several user interface elements derived from toolbars:

A search box is not ipso facto a toolbar but may appear on a toolbar, as is the case with the address bar.

Toolbars may appear in different software; some web browsers allow additional toolbars to be added through plug-ins. These browser toolbars have caused controversy as unscrupulous companies use software bundling to force users downloading one program to also install a browser toolbar, some of which invade the user's privacy by tracking their web history and search history online. Many antivirus companies refer to these programs as grayware or Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs).[3][4][5][6]


  1. The 1996 Oxford Dictionary of Computing describes the term "ribbon" in user interface design as "...a horizontal row of control icons that can often be redefined to suit the user's requirements."- what is currently more commonly referred to as "toolbar". Illingworth, V. (ed.) (1996). Oxford dictionary of computing. 4ed.
  2. ESPRIT '88: putting the technology to use : proceedings of the 5th Annual ESPRIT Conference, Brussels, November 14-17, 1988, Part 2. North-Holland. 1988. ISBN 978-0-444-87145-9. Retrieved 28 May 2013. [...] a ribbon that contains labeled icons (64×64 bit maps) representing tasks and tools that has been instantiated by the user. Each tasktool is represented by a different icon.
  3. Vincentas (11 July 2013). "Grayware in". Spyware Loop. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  4. "Threat Encyclopedia – Generic Grayware". Trend Micro. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  5. "Rating the best anti-malware solutions". Arstechnica. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  6. "PUP Criteria". Malwarebytes. Retrieved 13 February 2015.

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