Tools generic ui workgroup

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Tools should have a consistent behavior, unless their specific feature calls for understandable differences. Right now, some tools have their own cursor, some have a cursor + an icon (bottom right), some have cursor + modifier (top right), and some have cursor + icon + modifier. Also they don't always have status texts.


It is proposed that every tool should have a recognizable combination of (cursor, icon) so that the user knows which tools is currently selected by simply hovering over the canvas.

Custom Cursor or Icon

Some tools may have custom specific cursors, when they are very common or explicit, like the text tool having a common text cursor. Otherwise the default mouse cursor should be completed by a bottom-right icon, which is usually a monochrome icon looking like the toolbox icon.

If several tools use the same custom cursor, at least one of them should also use an icon. For instance the "Curves" tool use the same pipette cursor as the "Color Picker" tool, which makes sense and is understandable (clicking on the canvas with the Curves tool returns information about current pixel's color), but make both tools hardly recognizable from a glimpse at the cursor.


An additional (top right) modifier can accompany the cursor to indicate alternative actions (usually with modifier keys like ctrl/alt/shift) or status (impossible action, depending on position, in a state-machine tool, etc.).

Status Bar

Status bar Text

At every time, a tool should display a text in the status bar telling:

  • if no modifier is in action, the consequence of clicking on current position on the canvas, and alternative modifiers.
  • if a modifier is being held, the consequence of clicking on current position on the canvas.

Status bar icon

The tool should also display its toolbox icon in the status bar.

Current Status

The following tools have been listed by Elle Stone.

Complete tools

These tools indicate that they are the selected tool by showing an icon when hovering over the image, and also by displaying the icon in the status bar, along with some explanatory text:

  • airbrush
  • align
  • blur/sharpen
  • clone
  • color picker
  • curves
  • dodge/burn
  • ellipse select
  • eraser
  • foreground select
  • free select
  • fuzzy select
  • heal
  • ink
  • paintbrush
  • paths
  • pencil
  • rectangle select
  • scissors select
  • select by color
  • smudge

Tools missing status information

These tools indicate that they are the selected tool by showing an icon when hovering over the image. But they don't show an icon or explanatory text in the status bar.

  • blend
  • bucket fill
  • cage
  • crop
  • flip
  • measure
  • move
  • perspective
  • perspective clone
  • rotate
  • scale
  • shear
  • text
  • unified transform
  • warp
  • zoom

Tools missing cursor icons

These tools don't show an icon upon hovering over the image and also don't show any explanatory text in the status bar:

  • brightness-contrast
  • color balance
  • colorize
  • desaturate
  • gegl
  • gegl
  • hue-saturation
  • levels
  • posterize
  • threshold