At work the other day, someone asked if there was a word for the style of menu that the latest versions Firefox and Microsoft Office now use; a single top level menu item which expands to a more familiar list of items and categories. "Top level menu" seems the most generic but doesn't explicitly refer to this style of menu.

Firefox has eliminated the "File, Edit, etc." menubar style completely and just has the single button to bring down the whole menu; Chrome does this as well with the little wrench icon. MS Office has hedged its bets and is using the familiar "File" heading but moved all items into one submenu (not counting the other tabs, those are actually part of the Ribbon). It's a style I've seen growing more popular to eliminate some of the chrome of the GUI but I don't know if it even has a formal/informal name.

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  • 2
    "New fangled" ? ;-)
    – Bevan
    Sep 18, 2011 at 2:51
  • 2
    Obfuscation? At least it seems to be hiding everything behind a single point of access when the Ribbon was intended to bring everything out in the open. I suppose it is just part of the eb and flow of what is considered important in UI design. By the way, the Microsoft File menu was under the application icon in earlier versions of the Ribbon and probably brought back under a File menu because many people couldn't find it. Sep 18, 2011 at 7:45
  • In MS Office 2010, the "File" tab of the ribbon activates a view called "BackStage" - it brings together everything to do with the entire file.
    – Bevan
    Sep 19, 2011 at 7:32
  • @Bevan It's technically not just things to do with the specific file though; there's also the Help and Options menus. File's just a helpful way to group the items as most items are directly/indirectly related to it, and it's also how people are used to interacting with the menu bar. I had forgotten the MS Office logo button from MS Office 2007. Not the most discoverable I guess, though I personally love clicking things to see what they do.
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 19, 2011 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


you can call it a compact menu Style! https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/compact-menu-2/

  • I like the sound of it, unfortunately it doesn't look like anyone's chosen a proper name for it; even Mozilla or Microsoft, best I can tell.
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 19, 2011 at 21:47
  • infact i even thought why not look into to source code of firefox to see what thy have named the button and its style as!
    – ioWint
    Sep 20, 2011 at 22:25

I like to think of that style as a mega menu on the basis it is similar to the mega dropdown menu styles used by some web sites. Mega dropdown menus are meant to improve the user experience by allowing you to find what you're looking for faster when relevant options are grouped together at a glance without forcing you to go loading another page (see http://www.ebuyer.com/ - run your mouse over one of the top navigation menu options like "Computing" and you will see what I mean). Of course it's down to users to say whether it works better or not for any application. As for a solid answer I'd be interested in hearing if there is an official name for that menu style.

  • It does seem like a mega menu, but at the same time mega menus are usually for navigation, and often still not the only top level navigation option...
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 18, 2011 at 16:27
  • Totally Ben, on that note I've seen quite a few people struggle with the version of Firefox shown in your screen grab on the basis they really didn't know where to click to get the options (I'm sure they won't be the only ones!) - when I look at the MS Office ribbon arrangement I don't think it fully fits the description of a mega menu although it does fit some of it, I was definitely thinking more about Firefox at the time.
    – dkcwd
    Sep 21, 2011 at 8:40

I think that the Firefox example you refer to and the ribbon part of Office are in fact two different things.

As far as Office is concerned, there is in fact no real menu bar as we know it. The ribbon contains tabs. The File tab is lightly different from the other tabs in the sense that all the other tabs just display a different set of groups in the ribbon, where the File tab displays a different main window. See this article: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/cc872782.aspx The thing you see when you activate the File tab does not really have a name. It is in fact just a form with a classic navigation on the left and a detail view on the left.

The Firefox example (and the Google Chrome wrench) is different because it is a button that simply shows a popup menu when clicked. The popup menu can contain other popup menus. A popup menu is something small that pops up on top of everything else. It does not replace the main window, but just pops up on top of it.

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