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In computing, a window is a visual area containing some kind of user interface. It usually has a rectangular shape. It displays the output of and may allow input to one or more processes.

Windows are primarily associated with graphical displays, where they can be manipulated with a mouse cursor.

A graphical user interface (GUI) using windows as one of its main "metaphors" is called a windowing system.


Windows are two dimensional objects arranged on a plane called the desktop. In a modern full-featured windowing system they can be resized, moved, hidden, restored or closed.

Windows usually include other graphical objects, possibly including a menu-bar, toolbars, controls, icons and often a working area. In the working area, the document, image, folder contents or other main object is displayed. Around the working area within the bounding window, there may be other smaller window areas, sometimes called panes or panels, showing relevant information or options. The working area may be capable of holding only one (single document interface) or more than one main object in a multiple document interface.

A program may create more than one window on the desktop. Sometimes child windows or 'dialogs' appear in front of the main one such as when saving or opening a file. Some programs create separate windows for each open document or image, or when specific options are available.

When two windows overlap the front one is usually opaque, but some modern windowing systems can make all or part of their windows semi-transparent.


The idea was developed at the Stanford Research Institute (led by Douglas Engelbart). Their earliest systems supported multiple windows, but there was no obvious way to indicate boundaries between them (such as window borders, title bars, etc).

Research continued at Xerox Corporation's Palo Altomarker Research Center / PARCmarker (led by Alan Kay). They used overlapping windows.

During the 1980's the term "WIMP", which stands for window, icon, menu, pointer, was coined at PARC.

Applemarker had worked with PARC briefly at that time. Apple developed an interface based on PARC's interface. It was first used on Apple's Lisa and later Macintosh computers. Microsoft was developing office applications for the "Mac" at that time. They based their windowing system Windows on Apple's system.

Window managers

The part of a windowing system which manages window operations is called a window manager.

Examples of some current windowing systems:


See also

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