Mac Menu Bar Design

14 Oct 2005 - 1:57pm
8 years ago
2 replies
863 reads
Jay Zipursky
2005

Hi folks,

I¹d like to get some feedback on menu design for the Mac OS platform.

We have a non-document centric, client application that enables a few
different types of tasks. There are a handful of modeless windows the user
can open up that each has a different context of use. We are currently
struggling with the menu bar design for the application because of the
tension between the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and the different
contexts each window offers.

The two extremes are:

1) Have a single menu bar with all menu items. Disable any items that
aren¹t applicable to active window. This design is consistent with the
Apple HIGs but will most likely create a number of top-level menus that are
specific to individual windows.

2) Have a menu bar that contains menus specific to the active window only.
(This is closer to what you¹d see in an MS Windows application.)

Complicating factors (aka ³real life²):

* Some menu items have a global context and should be available from any
window. For example, the File menu will have global items.
* The ³best² place for some window-specific menu items might be in a menu
like File or Edit. For solution #2, those would mysteriously disappear when
you switched windows.

We¹ve toyed with replacing menu items with buttons in the windows, but the
development team has frowned on that idea.

I¹ve struggled to find other MacOS applications that are similar to this
application, but I haven¹t seen anything yet.

Comments or pointers to examples would be great.

Thanks in advance,
Jay
--
Kodak Graphic Communications Canada Company
Jay Zipursky | Tel: +01.604.451.2720 ext: 2204
Team Leader, Usability | Cel: +01.604.418.2238
Unified Workflow | Fax: +01.604.437.9891
3755 Willingdon Avenue | jay.zipursky at creo.com
Burnaby, BC V5G 3H3
Canada

Comments

15 Oct 2005 - 12:25am
Larry Tesler
2004

Jay,

Some Mac applications that have various kinds of modeless windows do
use solution #2.

A more common solution is to put the window-specific commands in the
window instead of in the global menu bar. Sometimes, this is done
with a small menu bar in the window. sometimes with a row of icons or
tool bar. In Photoshop, each floating window has a menu widget (a
triangle in a circle) that drops down a menu when clicked. BBEdit has
a row of icons in each window, some of which drop down a menu when
clicked, some of which perform a command when clicked.

Before you commit to a design, you could build a quick prototype and
get users to test it. If they are looking for the commands in the
wrong place, where they are looking may be where they belong.

Larry Tesler

At 11:57 AM -0700 10/14/05, Jay Zipursky wrote:
>[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>Hi folks,
>
>I'd like to get some feedback on menu design for the Mac OS platform.
>
>We have a non-document centric, client application that enables a few
>different types of tasks. There are a handful of modeless windows the user
>can open up that each has a different context of use. We are currently
>struggling with the menu bar design for the application because of the
>tension between the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and the different
>contexts each window offers.
>
>The two extremes are:
>
>1) Have a single menu bar with all menu items. Disable any items that
>aren't applicable to active window. This design is consistent with the
>Apple HIGs but will most likely create a number of top-level menus that are
>specific to individual windows.
>
>2) Have a menu bar that contains menus specific to the active window only.
>(This is closer to what you'd see in an MS Windows application.)
>
>Complicating factors (aka "real life"):
>
>* Some menu items have a global context and should be available from any
>window. For example, the File menu will have global items.
>* The "best" place for some window-specific menu items might be in a menu
>like File or Edit. For solution #2, those would mysteriously disappear when
>you switched windows.
>
>We've toyed with replacing menu items with buttons in the windows, but the
>development team has frowned on that idea.
>
>I've struggled to find other MacOS applications that are similar to this
>application, but I haven't seen anything yet.
>
>Comments or pointers to examples would be great.
>
>Thanks in advance,
>Jay
>--
>Kodak Graphic Communications Canada Company
>Jay Zipursky | Tel: +01.604.451.2720 ext: 2204
>Team Leader, Usability | Cel: +01.604.418.2238
>Unified Workflow | Fax: +01.604.437.9891
>3755 Willingdon Avenue | jay.zipursky at creo.com
>Burnaby, BC V5G 3H3
>Canada
>
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15 Oct 2005 - 12:20pm
CD Evans
2004

Hi Jay,

It seems you are comparing the consistency of the Apple menu system in
order to compliment the confusing complexity of Windows
(developer-driven) 'add ons' .

In order to solve the problem, you should address the the situation you
are dealing with, which is 'variable pathways' for 'different sets of
users', instead of resorting to comparing only what already exists.

IMHO, use icons on the modeless windows and send me a check for it.

Thanks,
CD Evans

> Message: 7
> Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 11:57:10 -0700
> From: Jay Zipursky <Jay.Zipursky at Creo.com>
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Mac Menu Bar Design
> To: <discuss at ixdg.org>
> Message-ID: <BF754D96.18C87%Jay.Zipursky at creo.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"
>
> Hi folks,
>
> I?d like to get some feedback on menu design for the Mac OS platform.
>
> We have a non-document centric, client application that enables a few
> different types of tasks. There are a handful of modeless windows the
> user
> can open up that each has a different context of use. We are currently
> struggling with the menu bar design for the application because of the
> tension between the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and the different
> contexts each window offers.
>
> The two extremes are:
>
> 1) Have a single menu bar with all menu items. Disable any items that
> aren?t applicable to active window. This design is consistent with the
> Apple HIGs but will most likely create a number of top-level menus
> that are
> specific to individual windows.
>
> 2) Have a menu bar that contains menus specific to the active window
> only.
> (This is closer to what you?d see in an MS Windows application.)
>
> Complicating factors (aka ?real life?):
>
> * Some menu items have a global context and should be available from
> any
> window. For example, the File menu will have global items.
> * The ?best? place for some window-specific menu items might be in a
> menu
> like File or Edit. For solution #2, those would mysteriously
> disappear when
> you switched windows.
>
> We?ve toyed with replacing menu items with buttons in the windows, but
> the
> development team has frowned on that idea.
>
> I?ve struggled to find other MacOS applications that are similar to
> this
> application, but I haven?t seen anything yet.
>
> Comments or pointers to examples would be great.
>
> Thanks in advance,
> Jay
> --
> Kodak Graphic Communications Canada Company
> Jay Zipursky | Tel: +01.604.451.2720 ext: 2204
> Team Leader, Usability | Cel: +01.604.418.2238
> Unified Workflow | Fax: +01.604.437.9891
> 3755 Willingdon Avenue | jay.zipursky at creo.com
> Burnaby, BC V5G 3H3
> Canada

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