Menus are the most common way of interacting or controlling your software. Though each program has it's own menu, modern software developers have begun establishing some standardization in how they create their menus. Many programs have a menu called File which controls things like Opening, Saving and Printing your file and Exiting the program. Many also have an Edit menu which contains the main editing commands like Cut, Copy and Paste.

The items on the menu are Commands or the features of the program. You choose the command that you want with the keyboard, mouse, trackball or touchpad. Commands control the operation of the software.

Menu bars are usually positioned at the top of the screen and are accessed by moving the cursor to the menu and pressing the button (left button if there are two). This displays a pull down menu with a number of commands or features. Depending on how the program works either let go of the button and move to the command you want then press the button again to choose it or while holding down the button, move to the command and let go to choose it.

Menus can also be controlled through the keyboard. The most common way of accessing the menu through the keyboard is by pressing the Alt key and using the Arrow or Cursor Movement keys to move through the menu items, then pressing Enter to choose the item you want. Many menu items can also be accessed using Hot key combinations. One common keyboard combination is to first tap the Alt key and then press letter key for the command you want.

Menus are created in a hierarchy. Some menu items branch out to give even more choices. Some menu items open Dialog Boxes that allow you to choose from a number of different options.

dialog popup

Dialog boxes allow computer users to select different options. Some dialog boxes have 2 or more Tabs which can be clicked to choose more options. Once the options have been chosen press Okay to apply the options. Some dialog boxes have an Apply button which will apply the options that you have chosen without closing the dialog box. Choose Cancel to close the dialog box without applying the changes selected. Note that options set with the Apply button cannot be canceled this way.

Modern software places the most popular commands on a toolbar for easier access. Simply click the left mouse button over the menu item to access a particular command. These tool bars can usually be customized and often allow the user to move or Tear Off the menu and drag them to a preferred location or Dock on the screen. Menus can also be customized by adding or removing commands.

A context sensitive menu displays menu options related to the item your cursor is over (activated with the right mouse button or double click). When the button is clicked over an object on the screen or area of the screen, a specific menu with commands related to that object will be displayed. Click the mouse button on the command to choose it.

Last updated: February 18, 2021