Glossary » select-then-operate paradigm
an approach to direct manipulation user interfaces where a user must first select an object (icon, piece of text) and then choose an action to perform on that object (copy, make it boldface, print). This is the typical approach used in word processors and graphical file systems (choose a file icon, and then drag it, open it, or duplicate it).
An alternative approach is to choose the operation first and then the objects to operate on. This is common in drawing interfaces, where a tool (the operation) is selected first, and then the tool acts open each object or region it is clicked on.