I am looking for a comprehensible icon/a visual metaphor to express "arbitrary attributes", in the sense of additional information.

In my particular case, each record represents a word, or a name, but the question is generally applicable for other cases - the additional attributes I am referring to provide some arbitrary additional information on the record; maybe it could be called "meta-information". To give an impression of what attributes I am talking about, here are some examples of that additional information are:

  • Who created the record?
  • How often is the record used?
  • Is the record deprecated?
  • In which century did the word/name stored in the record first occur?
  • What other words (records) often appear in combination with this record?


So, to open the dialog box where the values of such attributes can be configured for a given record, I am looking for a commonly understood icon. My ideas so far, none of which I am completely happy with, are:


A set of tools is often used to convey "configuration", but that could be confused with the application-wide configuration that also exists in my program.

Luggage tag

A luggage tag could adequately convey the meaning of "attached information", but aside from said attributes, "markers" or "comments" can be attached to records, and I would like to use a luggage tag icon for those.

Information i

Such a symbol would express that we are dealing with information about the record, which is ok, but it also implies that it is read-only information, a mere information output, rather than a way to edit said information.

Is there any commonly understood visual way to express attribute values?

  • (Can't comment.) Why not just Edit..., on a button? How much space is on the screen?
    – Cakey
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 9:10
  • Little space: Primarily, a table is shown with, say, two or three columns (at least). In each cell (i.e. once per row row and column), there are at least two such buttons, one for the attributes, one for the aforementioned marker or comment feature, in addition to the actual text of the record. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 9:27
  • Well maybe you can make it not a disaster to click on something and get into edit mode. If it's easy to get out of then what is the harm of pressing a row? It sounds like you are putting a picture on something that might not need a picture.
    – Cakey
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 9:48
  • 1
    @Cakey: Clicking on a cell already opens up/focuses the editor for the cell contents. Of course, I could integrate the options to get to the attributes list there, but then the attributes could not be reached as directly any more. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 12:43
  • 1
    @MrE.Upvoter: As I explained above, I do give points, but rarely immediately so. And, no, records and attributes are not synonymous: Each record (which represents a word or a name) can have any number of additional attributes (which represent arbitrary additional information). Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:44

5 Answers 5


I think what you are after, are some way of indicating "more, unspecific information".

As @Cakey points out, not everything in the world needs an icon, so maybe some indication of editing might work fine.

Luggage tags are usually used for tags as in identifying synonyms on additional information, mainly as a help for search and batch. Such as swiss (cheese) would have tags as cheese, milk product, europe, pasterurised etc

Tools are configuration, so not really applicable.

You might want to think about:

three dots (indicating more information)

an i, possibly with a pencil

The text "(add) more"

Another way - this depends on how this is set up: imagine a bar with a tiny arrow on it. Best example I can think of right now, is the bar here at GD: the "pull-down" text box in the answer-field:

enter image description here

This could be vertical of course. It would show there is more (and what is behind this "more" could be editable).

  • 1
    I prefer the suggestion with the info i combined with a pencil. Simple as it sounds as an idea, I think it most suitably conveys editable additional information. As there will be yet another type of "attached data/record-specific settings" beside the attributes, I think the three dots are too general. +1 for the extra hints about luggage tags referring to (single-word-)tags rather than extensive comments. I will think about that and at least make it clear that the comments can contain more than a single word. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:48
  • It actually sounds to me that you might want to look at systems for museum collections - they do this sort of thing all the time.
    – benteh
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:52

Why don't you try a small "graph" style icon to represent attributes:

enter image description here

I feel that this icon can't be confused with something such as "tools" or "options"


An icon representing generic control elements should work, for example showing a two-part radio button.

Or, similar, a simplified equalizer control:

icon example

If a symbol of "control elements" causes confusion with a tools icon, representing just a list of items could solve that:

list icon

Images from awoken-icon-theme

  • 1
    I fear this might get confused with the application-wide settings of the program itself, like the tools icon. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 20:34
  • Good point - I try to find an example for the radio buttons - should be less confusing. Do you use a "gears" icon for tools? Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 20:37
  • @O.R.Mapper I actually like the luggage tag most, but as you use it elsewhere - what about the plain list icon? Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 20:53
  • I'm probably going to use something like a gear + screw wrench to express the application-wide settings. I'm considering the list suggestion for the attributes (but as I'm not in a particular hurry, I'll wait some more days before accepting an answer). Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 5:59
  • +1 for the list suggestion, it is my second to favourite after the info i with a pencil. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:50

An open or closed scroll (depending on how much detail you can include or how big the icon is) can represent "textual information", "archives", and "records".

Googled examples:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Adding a pencil would also introduce the 'edit' action.

  • Thanks for the answer, but unfortunately, I don't think these are suitable. "It represents 'textual information' and also implies 'old' or 'dated' 'records'." - Exactly, and neither is all of my information textual (How often is the record used? could be a number, for instance), nor are all of my records old or dated. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 10:15

Consider creating a prettier version of a scatterplot.

(source: ucla.edu)

  • 2
    Why? Can you explain your reasoning? Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 13:27

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