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A number of applications and operating systems have a single "main" button or menu, often in the corner of the screen, that seems to be conceptually higher-level (or maybe it's lower-level?) than any other buttons or menus that are part of that system.

Examples:

  • the Apple Menu on Macs
  • the Start Menu on Windows (Windows 95 through 7, at least)
  • the Office Button in some versions of Microsoft Office (e.g., 2007)
  • maybe even the StackExchange drop-down on the top-left of this page

Is there are standard name for this type of user interface element?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Not sure if there is a common name for this, usually proprietary names are used ("Start menu", "Apple menu", "System menu" in Ubuntu...). Note that these play different roles in different systems, because they give the user access to different functionalities (Windows menu is mostly oriented for launching applications, and performing some system related actions like shutdown, restart, accessing control panel, while in OSX it's more system oriented, and is not used for launching apps).

In case of systems the most universal one seems to be "System main menu", and for applications "App main menu", so I think the only common naming convention would be "Main menu".

(By the way, if you refer to Windows, "System menu" refers to even something else - the menu that appears after left-clicking the application icon in the very top left corner of the application window http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_menus_in_Microsoft_Windows).

It's a part of WIMP interfaces, anyway (windows, icons, menus, pointers). You can read more about WIMP on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WIMP_(computing) or http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/wimp.html.

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Yeah, Main Menu seems blindingly obvious now. :) Thanks. Although I think "home menu" is also a good contender. –  Marc Stober Mar 14 '13 at 14:18
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The term I've heard used before to cover things like 'system menu' is the home menu. That is the top default menu for a system - any system.

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I'd be inclined to refer to it as the primary navigation element. It's the main place in which your application/website/desktop environment organizes tasks/functions/documents/etc.

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