First my question, and then the details below: Should the main drop-down menu in a windows application always be titled "File" or should it be titled something more appropriate to the options it contains?

We are finishing up development on a pretty slick data reporting application. Without getting into too much unnecessary depth, here are the details:

On the main user interface, we have three dropdown menus: File, Options, and Help. Under File are options to:

1) Configure a new report (not necessarily run the report, but just set one up to be run in the future, possibly over and over)

2) Add a schedule to an existing report (to run automatically at user-defined intervals)

3) Add or remove devices that can be reported on

4) Exit program

We chose the title "File" because that seems pretty standard across the board for a program's main drop down menu, but I'm questioning if that is an appropriate title since none of the options under it directly relate to a file or files in any way. I am wondering if "Setup" or "Configuration" or "Menu" would be more appropriate. Based on Wikipedia's definition of file menu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_menu), I'm thinking we should rename it. But at the same time, with users so used to the main menu being titled "File", I don't want to confuse them or make it seem strange that there is not a file menu.

1 Answer 1


Remember when Microsoft introduced the ribbon UI in MS Word and dropped the FILE MENU and replaced it with the GLOWING ORB OF MYSTERY?

Remember how long it took you to find the PRINT option that first afternoon of the upgrade? :)

Point being that, no, it's not a requirement--as MS has clearly shown--but it is a convention. So deciding to veer away from convention should be given careful consideration.

As for your example, it's not that FILE is the key here for the user, but rather that they know what is under the FILE menu. OPEN, CLOSE, PRINT, PAGE SETUP, etc. Those are the common things people will hunt for a FILE menu to find. If none of your actions are typical FILE menu actions, then it won't make any sense to put them under the FILE menu as people wouldn't be looking for them there.

Your items 1-3 all appear to be report-related. I'd suggest putting them under a REPORT menu instead. As EXIT is a standard item under FILE on windows, it would make sense to place that under a FILE menu.

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