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What Is a Menu Bar?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A menu bar is a graphical bar in an operating system or program providing access to a series of drop down menus for use in navigation and system controls. Menu bars are usually configurable and they can work in a variety of ways, depending on the operating system and the program being used. Familiarity with the menu bar as a system for navigation has led many websites to include similar features to make it easier for their users to get around.

In some cases, the menu bar is in a fixed location, usually at the bottom or top of the screen. It starts when the operating system boots and stays visible at all times, unless the user switches videos and other graphics to full screen. The menu bar provides basic system information, as well as access to programs installed on the computer and other materials of potential interest to the user. People can usually control volume, time and date display, and similar things from the menu bar.

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When a program is opened, the program may have its own menu bar, or part of the system's bar may convert to display the program's menus. This allows people to access options ranging from an opportunity to save a document to a help menu if they need assistance. The menu options drop down, and may also tree out; for example, an “Edit” option with a list of editing choices could be available, and some of those choices may fan out into another drop down menu when they are highlighted. Users may be able to configure the menu bar to display the items they use most commonly, and can create shortcuts in the menu for common commands.

Most graphical operating systems and programs have a menu bar, with some exceptions. It provides access to navigation and controls in a format that is relatively easy to use, and people can usually control it with the mouse or keyboard commands, depending on their needs. Individual programs can have multiple menu bars with the capacity to turn them on and off, as seen in something like an image editing program, where people can bring up different features on the screen for the purpose of image manipulation.

People first learning to use an operating system or program can find this tool to be a helpful resource. In addition to offering a help menu along with a feature to help the user find things, the listed options can give people an idea of the range of features available and what kinds of commands they can execute.

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