ARCHIVED: What are contextual menus?

This content has been archived, and is no longer maintained by Indiana University. Resources linked from this page may no longer be available or reliable.

Contextual menus, also called context menus in Windows, are pop-up menus that contain different items depending on the circumstances in which they appear. These menus can make it easier to do some common tasks.

Mac OS X

In Mac OS X, when you hold the Ctrl key down and click an item (e.g., an icon or window), a pop-up menu appears. It is called a contextual menu because its contents depend on the item you click; the menu features a list of commands you can perform relative to, or within the context of, the item you click. For example, if you Ctrl-click a file icon, you can choose to open it, open a Get Info or an Info window about it, give it a label, duplicate it, or make an alias of it. Other items will give you different menu options. Contextual menus appear with most items in the Finder, but won't necessarily be available in other applications.

Windows

In Windows, you can access context menus by right-clicking an icon or window. The contents of the menu that appears depend on the item you click, as well as the software or hardware installed. For example, WinZip includes some simple, commonly used functions in the context menu.

In Windows programs, items appearing in the context menu are almost always taken from the File, Edit, and View menus. Not all programs use context menus in all places, but it is an exceptionally rare program that has no context menus at all. In Windows itself, practically all icons on the desktop and on the hard drive have at least a basic context menu containing the options Create Shortcut, Cut, Paste, and Properties.

This is document aehq in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2018-01-18 12:24:44.

Contact us

For help or to comment, email the UITS Support Center.