I am making an application which reminds users to take breaks at intervals (the user can set the interval). I’d like to give the user an idea of how much time is left until the break, but not give the exact number of minutes. To achieve this, I use a progress bar in the main window to display the amount of time left until taking a break

I'm now looking for a textual way to represent what I'm displaying in the progress bar, because I need to put the same information in a menu in the system tray (where I can only show text)

My thinking so far


I could use percentage, but I’d like to find a way where the user sees some graphics instead of numbers

Progress as period characters

I’ve also been thinking of using something like this:


(the percentage in parenthesis would not be displayed)

The problem with this is that to work well it assumes that the font is monospaced, and this is something I cannot control unfortunately.

  • But why not just show numbers if text is the only thing you can use? A nice large visual ticker is going to look more attractive than your current idea.
    – Summer
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 13:10
  • @JaneDoe1337: Thank you for the question, i've been thinking about this as well, one thing i'm worried about is that people will be confused when seeing the percentage numbers and think "why isn't the number of minutes shown"? (the reason i don't want numbers is that i'd like to avoid focusing the users attention on a specific number of minutes remaining until the next break)
    – sunyata
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:01
  • But wouldn't a simple '%' behind the number fix that? I agree with Webster's answer but I'm not sure if that's possible within your app.
    – Summer
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:26
  • 1
    @JaneDoe1337: Unfortunately i cannot do what Webster suggests, but yes i agree this would be a good solution otherwise. About the percentage sign: I'd like to avoid using numbers at all (even with a percentage sign behind the numbers) and would like to find a way to display time left/passed "in a graphical way but with text" in a manner of speaking
    – sunyata
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:37
  • This will only work for LTR languages according to cognitive science for linear (spatial) representation for flow of time. See link for abstract: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21564254
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


Your progress bar idea will work, but you need to find two characters with the same width: one filled, one blank.

There are sites, like this one, that may give you some ideas for what characters you could use.

You can also just look at Unicode character lists and find a pair yourself (this may take some trial and error). On the Wikipedia pages for geometric shapes and block elements I found some symbols that work at least on my machine:

Dots ● and ○:

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
● ● ● ● ● ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Emoji squares ◽ and ◾:


Shaded blocks ░ and ▓:



That can be shown with a progress bar. Everyone understands what a rectangle getting filled from the left means.

You could do a rotating, clock style counter as well, 1 full rotation of the hand is 100%.

There are various meters, bars and graphs that show a proportional quantity or time.

The theme​ usually is that the shape is being filled. It's a counter and there are many possibilities.

  • Progress bars must flow in the same direction as the language being used to be effective according to cognitive science. Link in comments to original post.
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 15:16

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