Cursor Terminology and Shape (was Re: Red cursor)

From: Randy Kramer <>
Date: Sun Apr 03 2005 - 18:10:11 CEST

On Wednesday 23 March 2005 12:28 pm, Alan Horkan wrote:
> Randy (if you are reading this) we might need to clarify exactly the
> meanings of caret/cursor and do some cleanup but I've spent enough time on
> this today so I'm not doing it now. (No need to explain it to me, I can
> look it up. I used to be clear on the distinction but I've gotten
> confused again).

I read it a while ago, and decided to write today. I agree it would be
worthwhile to clarify those meanings, and will start by thinking out loud:

Before the mouse, I (and others) called the place where text was going to be
inserted the cursor (iirc).

After mice existed for awhile, I adopted the terminology "mouse cursor" for
the thing which shows where the mouse points (I've also heard "mouse
pointer"), and "insertion point" for the point (on a line) at which text will
be inserted.

Thinking about it today, I'm not certain that is the best terminology. (I
had a specific reason when I started writing this, but lost it ;-) Maybe it
had to do with parts of speech, but both "cursor" and "insertion point" are
nouns (or noun phrases), iiuc. Oh well, I may remember after I send this.)

I wonder what the generally accepted view on the best terminology is?

In any event, the caret is not among those terms, as, to me, this ^ is the
caret. Is it different in the UK?

On a slightly different note, I just started AbiWord for the first time in a
long time (a 2.1 development version on Mandrake 10). The insertion point in
both cases is a vertical line, black while in insert mode, red while in
overtype mode.

Many of the software products I use use an I-beam and a box, which seem very
intuitive to me. The I-beam is displayed between characters and indicates
the next character will be inserted between those characters. The box,
sometimes a backlit type solid thingie and sometimes a hollow outline
(nedit), "highlights" a character, and indicates that the next character
typed will replace that character. Do others find that as intuitive as I do?

Randy Kramer

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Received on Sun Apr 3 18:12:01 2005

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