Part of the Software applications glossary:

A menu is a set of options presented to the user of a computer application to help the user find information or execute a program function. Menus are common in graphical user interfaces ( GUI s) such as Windows or the Mac OS . Menus are also employed in some speech recognition programs.

In a graphical drop-down menu, clicking on an item (text word, button or icon ) causes a list of new items to appear below that item. An example can be seen by clicking on one of the text words such as "File" or "Edit" in the horizontal list at the top of the screen in a Windows application. Clicking on an item in the menu executes the indicated function or generates another menu. In a variant of the drop-down menu called a fly-out, the list appears to the side of the clicked item. A pop-up menu appears above the clicked item when the main list is at the bottom of the window or screen. A menu may occasionally appear with apparent spontaneity at a random location in a window. This type of menu, also known as a pop-up, is usually meant to forestall a potential problem or prevent a user from making a mistake. A pop-up menu with only two choices, such as Yes/No, is called a dialog box. Pop-up menus should not be confused with pop-up ad s that are used in some commercial Web site s.

In a speech-driven system, a menu is presented as a set of audible choices to which the user can respond by pressing a button or speaking aloud. This type of menu is common in telephone answering systems and automated customer-service programs. Item selection may have to be carried out several times as the user drills down to reach the desired department or information.

This was last updated in January 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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