Home : Technical Terms : Breadcrumbs Definition


Breadcrumbs are a user interface element designed to make navigation easy and intuitive. They are used by operating systems, software programs, and websites. Breadcrumbs display the directory path of the current folder or webpage and provide one-click access to each of the parent directories. Like breadcrumbs in the story "Hansel and Gretel," they allow you to retrace your steps back to where you started.

The Windows operating system displays breadcrumbs in the toolbar of each open window. If you open the "Public" user folder, for example, the toolbar will display the current location as:

Computer → Local Disk (C:) → Users → Public

This provides a simple way to view the directory path of the current folder. Each of directories listed in the toolbar are clickable, providing quick access to the parent folders.

Webpages often include breadcrumbs near the top of the page, though they are usually placed outside of the main navigation bar. The purpose of website breadcrumbs is twofold: 1) to clearly identify what section of a website a specific webpage is located, and 2) to make it easy for you to jump to the parent sections. For example, a soccer page on a news website may include breadcrumbs

Home : Sports : Soccer : Premier League

near the top of the page. This indicates the current page is three sections deep within the website. Since each section name is also a link, you can quickly jump to any of the parent sections, such as "Soccer," by simply clicking the link within the breadcrumbs.

Updated: May 21, 2014

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