Dialog Box

What Does Dialog Box Mean?

A dialog box is a user interface element, a type of window that is used to enable communication and interaction between a user and a software program. The dialog box appears when the program either needs to give the user information in an urgent manner that involves interruption, such as when an error occurs, or if the program requires immediate input or decision from the user, such as when the program closes and needs to know if the changes made have to be saved or not.


The simplest form of dialog box is an alert, which simply displays a message and only requires an acknowledgment from the user that the message has been read.

Techopedia Explains Dialog Box

The dialog box is usually invoked by a program to enable reciprocal communication with the user or if a user invokes a function for which input is required. Dialog boxes usually take onscreen priority and will be displayed over the current display window. Dialog boxes also appear in response to the selection of a menu option. For example, if the user wants to change the properties of an image in image editing software, a dialog box often appears that will allow the user to select what’s required to achieve the desired effect on the image.

There are two types of dialog boxes:

  • Modal: Halts the application so that the user cannot continue until the dialog box has been closed or its purpose satisfied. This type of dialog box is used when the program needs information or is providing a warning.
  • Modeless: Used when the information or action being requested by the dialog box is not essential for the proper function of the program so it can be left open while the user continues to work on the application

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…