An alert box, sometimes called a message box, is a small window that pops up on your screen to warn you that your computer is about to perform an operation with potentially damaging consequences. For example, when you choose to empty the Trash or Recycle Bin on your computer, an alert box may pop up, saying "Are you sure you want to permanently remove these items?" You are then given the choice to select "OK," to delete the items, or "Cancel," to prevent the items from being removed.
Alert boxes act as a safeguard for users, preventing us from doing things we wish we hadn't. Perhaps the most common alert box is the one that pops up when you try to close a document without saving it. You'll mostly likely see an alert box with the message, "Save changes to this document before closing?" You can select "Don't Save," to discard the changes, "Save," to save the changes before closing the document, or "Cancel," to cancel closing the document and continue working on it.
Most alert boxes include the standard alert icon -- a triangle with an exclamation point in the middle -- to get your attention. However, not all alert boxes have multiple options, such as "Cancel" and "OK." For example, an alert box may show up on your screen saying a program performed an illegal operation and has unexpectedly quit. When that happens, your only option is to select "OK" and then kick your computer for quitting the program before you had a chance to save your work.