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Trying to come up with a undelete icon, the best ideas I've come up with so far are an upside down wastebin with rubbish underneath it. It is going to be placed on a user profile page that lists user content serving to specify what content has been deleted and likely providing a link to undelete that content.

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I'd consider an 'undo' type of icon...looping/reversing arrow. –  DA01 Apr 10 at 18:32
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If you must have an icon, try this query at IconFinder. –  plainclothes Apr 10 at 20:15
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How about a hand grabbing something from a bin - just saw my wife doing this. –  cup Apr 11 at 15:08
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Note that everyone is assuming that your "delete" icon is a trash can or something similar. If it isn't, you need to consider what the inverse of that metaphor would be -- or consider changing both icons. –  keshlam Apr 11 at 16:58
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I hinted at it above, but let me come right out and say it ... Use words: "Restore", "Undelete", "Undo". –  plainclothes Apr 11 at 17:23

9 Answers 9

Nothing special just a quick and simple thought. Without deep thinking.

undelete icon

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actually, I was just wondering if a curved arrow (similar to 'undo') or a slightly tilted trash can would be better here... and what's this watermark here? –  vaxquis Apr 12 at 15:35
    
I found this bin on some image stock as a preview. I took off the lid and added an arrow. It's just a concept. If you want to use it, you have to create it by yourself. –  slawek Apr 12 at 19:20

Assumptions:

  • We want to get across to new users that things can be restored from being deleted, trash can style (if not, or users already know, go with DA01's simple 'undo' icon)
  • We want the focus to be on the action the button does (with the trash can element a minor secondary detail)
  • Usual icon criteria: simplicity, uniformity, must work at small sizes

I'd go about this with an approach something like this:

enter image description here

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5  
I like the "extract from trash" arrow (+1), but the cross means "Can't delete" to me. An unadorned trash-can might be better. –  Andrew Leach Apr 12 at 10:57
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A better (IMO) take on this would be to have the arrow coming out (as shown) for undelete, but to trash something, have the arrow reversed and pointing into the trash can. That would make it very unambiguous: you're either putting something in the trash can or you're taking it out. –  Doktor J Apr 13 at 20:24
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I wouldn't just reverse the arrow as then delete and undelete would look too similar and the undo-like shape of the undelete arrow would be less relatively distinct - but an arrow straight down for "delete" would work, or maybe coming in from the right –  user568458 Apr 13 at 20:41

Forgive the absolutely terrible sketch; I had to make do with what I had.

I prefer simple expression with little detail and understandable shapes. This intends to communicate recovery from a bin with a backwards arrow.

Terrible Sketch

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Nothing says design like crayons on cement :) Love it! –  Scott Apr 10 at 19:00
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From an esteemed user such as yourself, that means a lot! Cheers! –  TorpedoBench Apr 10 at 19:10

I'd show trash bin with papers inside and the arrow which begins from papers inside the bin to outside to pale paper silhouette.

Like this one

enter image description here

small one enter image description here

or this one

enter image description here

EDITION (if you need a delete button)

enter image description here

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This is my first thought, too (although I probably wouldn't have sketched it so elegantly!). However, it would really only be effective if it matched up nicely with an equivalent garbage-can icon for the "delete" action. If you're using a simple "X" icon for delete, adding in a trash bin metaphor doesn't work. –  AmeliaBR Apr 10 at 23:11
    
@AmeliaBR for delete icon the only thing one should do - change the direction on the arrowhead... Look at the added picture –  Ilan Apr 11 at 2:55
    
Exactly. You need a matching set for the meaning to come through. –  AmeliaBR Apr 11 at 3:59
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Nice but it's not going to thumbnail very well. –  smci Apr 12 at 6:20
    
@Ilan, I'm not attacking your useful contribution, just mentioning. Apparently my comment is behind the discussion, so please ignore it. –  smci Apr 12 at 6:46

Context is always key, so if this is already a list of deleted content, the user already will know that it's deleted content. As such, you probably don't have to have the icon represent 'trash' or anything that literal--as it's redundant (we already know these items are 'in the trash'.

I'd suggest a more generic 'undo' or 'revert' icon would make more sense here. Something akin to:

enter image description here

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Undelete is nothing but Restoring, I would not recommend using an Undo icon, as if the entry can be editable or some other actions can be made on that record, user would certainly think that the Action can be Reversed, rather than you icon showing that it's for Untrashing/Undeleting.

So I've got couple of ideas here..

You can show a Recycle icon, which is nothing but Re-Use

enter image description here


Or, you can use Dots to depict whether the file is Deleted or Not..

Deleted File - enter image description here

File not deleted yet - enter image description here


Or, I designed two icons, with a simple + and - sign of trash cans, where + shows ADD to Trash Can, whereas - shows Remove from Trash Can

enter image description here

Or as suggested by user568458, you can use arrows in the place of - and + signs where the first icon shows to Delete the record, whereas the second icon shows Recover/Undelete the record

enter image description here

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I like the simple trash can shapes at the bottom, but the ambiguity of the + and - here makes my head hurt - + often means "create and have more stuff" and - "delete and have less stuff", so people could interpret this as the opposite as intended. I'd suggest arrows pointing up out of the bin or down into the bin –  user568458 Apr 11 at 10:47
    
@user568458 You won't believe but I was doing the same change as I thought the signs would make the users confuse... adding a new image right away, thanks... –  Mr. Alien Apr 11 at 10:52
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I see your point @user568458 but in its context it reads to me as 'add to trash', 'minus from trash'. +1 –  Mr E. Upvoter Apr 11 at 12:35
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The ones with the "+" and "-" look like batteries. –  tobyink Apr 12 at 0:51
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Red vs green is inaccessible to colour-blind people. The recycling icon doesn't seem appropriate, since significant pieces of software (e.g., Windows XP; don't know about more recent versions) used "recycle" as an enviro-trendy version of "trash", i.e., delete. –  David Richerby Apr 13 at 11:24

I think a "regular" trashcan icon with the classic red "circle-slash" would work well. I would read that as "this is not trash".

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I would actually read this as "Do not delete" or "unable to delete" –  Scott Apr 10 at 23:40
    
The red slashed circle is one of the most widely recognized symbols on the planet and is uniformly interpreted to mean "forbidden". Now we need some nicely recursive graphic that says, "It is forbidden to use the red slashed circle to mean anything other than 'It is forbidden to...'" –  David Richerby Apr 13 at 11:26

Well I am no graphic designer, but what I have in mind is an open garbage bin with a person finding something in it. Since it will portray the user actually looking for something he threw away, it would look more appealing :)

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To visualize an undelete operation I guess you would want to convey returning something that is missing. Maybe something along these lines?

enter image description here

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This looks like the "you've got a screw loose" icon. –  tobyink Apr 12 at 0:50

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