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File uploader

File uploaders allow users to select one or more files to upload to a specific location.


File uploaders allow users to upload content of their own. A file uploader is commonly found in forms, but can also live as a standalone element. There are two variants of file uploaders—our default file uploader and a drag and drop file uploader.


VariantWay it works
File uploaderUpload one or more files by clicking an action button that prompts a file selection dialog.
Drag and drop file uploaderDrag and drop selected files directly into a drop zone area to upload.

When to use

  • Uploading one or more files.
  • Uploading files by dragging and dropping.
  • Showing the process of uploading.

When not to use

  • Do not use upload in a modal when multiple files are uploaded, as uploaded files stack vertically.

Live demo




File uploader anatomy
  1. Label: Text to describe the action that needs to be taken.
  2. Description: Assistive text to help the user make an informed selection.
  3. Button or drop zone: The action to select a file to upload.
  4. Uploaded file: A file that has successfully been uploaded.


The button and uploaded files should be the same height. If the file uploader is present in a form with other inputs, use the same height for the form inputs and the file uploader for consistency.

File uploader sizes
File uploader sizeHeight (px/rem)Use case
Large48/3Choose this size when there is a lot of space to work with.
Medium40/2.5This is our default size and should be used whenever possible.
Small32/2Use when space is constricted or when placing a file uploader in a form that is long and complex.


Left align the button or drop zone area with the uploaded files. Multiple files will stack vertically.

File uploader left alignment


When including a button as the action to upload a file, use either a primary or tertiary button depending on your use case. If there is already a primary button present on the page, use a tertiary button for the file uploader so it does not conflict with the primary action.

File uploader button placement


Main elements


  • Labels inform users what needs to be uploaded.
  • Keep the label short and concise by limiting it to a single line of text.


  • Descriptions help communicate to the user what file size or format limitations there are.

Button or drop zone text

  • Button labels should be concise and describe the action that will be taken upon click. “Add files” is the default text that appears with the file uploader.
  • Drop zone area text should describe that you can either drag and drop a file into the drop zone or click on the text to upload a file.

Uploaded file text

  • The name of the file that has been uploaded.


Use an ellipsis (…) if the filename extends beyond the width of its parent element.

File uploader button placement

Further guidance

For further content guidance, see Carbon’s content guidelines.

Loading states

A file that is being uploaded has three distinct states—loading, success, and uploaded.

File uploader loading states



Moving your mouse anywhere within the bounds of the drop zone area with an attached file will enable you to drop it inside of the area and begin to upload.

File uploader drop zone click target

To remove an uploaded file, click the “x” (or close) icon.

File uploader uploaded file click target


Upload button or drop zone:

  • The file uploader button or drop zone can be activated by pressing Space or Enter.
  • The file uploader button or drop zone should have text or a label that accurately describes the action that will be taken.
  • After the file selection dialog closes, focus should retain the user’s point of regard and return to the element that invoked it.

Uploaded file:

  • Pressing Tab shifts focus to the “x” icon.
  • Pressing Space or Enter while the “x” icon is in focus will delete the file.

Screen readers

  • VoiceOver: Users can upload a file by pressing VO+Space while the button or drop zone area is in focus.
  • JAWS: Users can upload a file by pressing Enter or Space while the button or drop zone area is in focus.
  • NVDA: Users can upload a file by pressing Enter or Space while the button or drop zone area is in focus.


When a specific file cannot be uploaded successfully it will show an error state. We have an option for a single line or multi-line error state depending on how descriptive the message needs to be. Error messages should provide clear guidance to help the user resolve the error.

If the error relates to the file uploader as a whole instead of an individual file, you can alternatively use an inline error notification.

File uploader invalid states

File uploader

A file uploader traditionally uploads one or more files by clicking an action button that prompts a file selection dialog. Once you have selected one or more files from the dialog, the selected files will populate below the file uploader on the page. Your file may temporarily display a loading state before uploading has been successfully completed.

File uploader in context example

Drag and drop file uploader