context menu (right-click menu)

A context menu is a pop-up menu that provides shortcuts for actions the software developer anticipates the user might want to take.  

In a Windows environment, the context menu is accessed with a right mouse click.  For example, if the end user right-clicks in a Word document, the pop-up menu will include shortcuts for undo, cut, copy and paste.  If the end user right-clicks in Excel, however, the context menu also includes shortcuts for insert cell, delete cell, paste special and other commands that are commonly used for that program. 

User interaction with context menus depends upon the computing device, its operating system (OS) and it input mechanisms. If the user does not have a mouse, for example, he may access context menus by pressing a keyboard combination, pressing and holding a trackball, holding a tap on a touch screen or placing two fingers on a touch pad. Context menus can be closed by selecting an action or clicking outside the menu area in open space.

Windows 7 and Windows 8  allow users to modify the operating system's context menu to add desired actions or remove unused options. However, this requires extensive knowledge of the Windows registry or the aid of third-party tools such as ShellNewHandler or New Menu Editor.

This was last updated in June 2014

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