Even with the new multitouch capabilities of Microsoft Surface, you will encounter instances in which you must use text to convey information. Such text uses conventional components or types, such as text on buttons and error messages. The following guidelines describe how to design and implement text for Surface applications. In all instances, the preceding guidelines apply to the specific components.

About Button Text

Use text on a button when you need to explain the purpose of the button to users beyond what a graphic or icon can clearly convey. Make sure to use clear, concise, casual, and comfortable language. Avoid computer-based commands that you would not find in non-computer interfaces.

Use text when users expect to see it, such as with a check box, in a list of items, or with a radio button.

For difficult-to-explain commands, use design and text on the button to explain the command. As a general guideline, use text as little as possible, but use text to reduce or eliminate any usability issues.

The following examples pertain to text on buttons and guidelines about how to use text on buttons. This list is limited. You may need other buttons, such as one to send an e-mail, display a location on a map, and so on. The same basic guidelines apply to all button text: be specific, personal, and informal.


Button text Examples

end session

Keep language and tone personal and casual. Use a confirmation after the user’s first tap if necessary.

  • Good: I’m done

  • Bad: End session


  • Good: Close everything

  • Bad: Confirm

end application

Use this to explicitly close an application, instead of asking the user touch an access point, which leaves the application running in the background. Specify which application the user will close.

After the user taps the button, use different text to confirm and explain the action if necessary, especially if the user has displayed personal information.

  • Good: Close Concierge

  • Bad: Exit

  • Good: Remove my information and close Concierge

  • Are you sure?


Consider using a casual phrase, such as “never mind.” Be aware of your audience, however, because phrases like “never mind” can be idiomatic. to ensure clarity.

  • Good: Never mind

  • Bad: Cancel


Use this label to empty a field or other kind of user-supplied information so the user can reset it. Be specific about what the application is clearing.

  • Good: Clear the playlist

  • Bad: Delete all songs


Be specific as to what help is being offered.

If the context is too general, use an informal and personal tone.

  • Good: Show me how to use gestures

  • Bad: Help

  • Good: Help me

  • Bad: Help


Be specific as to what the application will print.

  • Good: Print my directions

  • Bad: Print