Context menu

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A context menu (also called contextual, shortcut, and popup or pop-up menu) is a menu in a graphical user interface (GUI) that appears upon user interaction, such as a right mouse click or middle click mouse operation. A context menu offers a limited set of choices that are available in the current state, or context, of the operating system or application. Usually the available choices are actions related to the selected object.

Contents

History

Context menus first appeared in the Smalltalk environment on the Xerox Alto computer, where they were called pop-up menus. The NEXTSTEP operating system further developed the idea, incorporating a feature whereby the right or middle mouse button brought the main menu (which was vertical and automatically changed depending on context) to the location of the mouse, thereby eliminating the need to move the mouse pointer all the way across the large (for the time) NextStep screen.

Implementation

Context menus are opened via various forms of user interaction that target a region of the GUI that supports context menus. The specific form of user interaction and the means by which a region is targeted vary:

  • On a computer running Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, or Unix running the X Window System, clicking the secondary mouse button (usually the right button) opens a context menu for the region that is under the mouse pointer.
  • On systems that support one-button mice, context menus are typically opened by pressing and holding the primary mouse button (this works on the icons in the Dock on Mac OS X) or by pressing a keyboard/mouse button combination (e.g. Ctrl-mouse click in Mac OS). A keyboard alternative for Mac OS is to enable Mouse keys in Universal Access. Then, depending on whether a laptop or compact or extended keyboard type is used, the shortcut is Function+Ctrl+5 or Ctrl+5 (numeric keypad) or Function+Ctrl+i (laptop).
  • In Microsoft Windows, pressing the Application key or Shift+F10 opens a context menu for the region that has focus.

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