The tooltip or infotip or a hint is a common graphical user interface element. It is used in conjunction with a cursor, usually a pointer. The user hovers the pointer over an item, without clicking it, and a tooltip may appear—a small "hover box" with information about the item being hovered over. Tooltips do not usually appear on mobile operating systems, because there is no cursor (though tooltips may be displayed when using a mouse).
A common variant, especially in older software, is displaying a description of the tool in a status bar. Another system, in the classic Mac OS, that aims to solve the same problem, but in a slightly different way, is balloon help. Microsoft invented another term, "ScreenTip", and uses it in its end-user documentation.
Demonstrations of tooltip usage are prevalent on web pages. Many graphical web browsers display the
title attribute of an HTML element as a tooltip when a user hovers the pointer over that element; in such a browser you should be able to hover over Wikipedia images and hyperlinks and see a tooltip appear. Some browsers, notably Microsoft's Internet Explorer (prior to version 7), will also display the
alt attribute of an image as a tooltip in the same manner if an
alt attribute is specified and a
title attribute is not. This is an incorrect behaviour of the
alt attribute according to the W3C specification. If a
title attribute is also specified, it will override the
alt attribute for tooltip content.
The term tooltip originally came from older Microsoft applications (like Microsoft Word 95), which had a toolbar where moving the mouse over the buttons (the Toolbar icons) displayed these tooltips, a short description of the function of the tool in the toolbar. More recently, these tooltips are used in various parts of an interface, not only on toolbars.
Some software and applications, such as GIMP, provide an option for users to turn off some or all tooltips. However, such options are left to the discretion of the developer, and are often not implemented.