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macOS Human Interface Guidelines

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Naming Menus and Items

A Menu Title Describes a Set of Items

In addition to the system-provided menus, such as File and Window, most apps add a few app-specific menus to the menu bar so that users have access to useful commands. Users choose which menu to open based on the menu’s title, so it’s important to make your menu titles accurate and informative. For example, users can easily predict the types of items they’ll find in the iTunes Controls and Store menus.

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Follow these guidelines as you create titles for your menus.

Use menu titles that accurately represent the items in the menu. Users should be able to use a menu’s title to predict the types of items they’ll find in the menu. For example, users would expect a Font menu to contain names of font families, such as Helvetica and Geneva, but they wouldn’t expect it to include editing commands, such as Cut and Paste.

Make menu titles as short as possible without sacrificing clarity. One-word menu titles are best because they take up very little space in the menu bar and they’re easy for users to scan. If you must use more than one word in a menu title, be sure to use title-style capitalization (to learn more about this style, see Use the Right Capitalization Style in Labels and Text).

Avoid using an icon for a menu title. You don’t want users to confuse a menu-title icon with a menu bar extra. Also, it’s not acceptable to mix text and icons in menu bar menu titles.

Ensure that a menu’s title is undimmed even when all of the menu’s commands are unavailable. Users should always be able to view a menu’s contents, whether or not the items are currently available. Ensuring that your menu items are always visible (even when they are not available) helps users learn what they can do in your app.

A Menu Item Names a Command or Action

As with menu titles, it’s important to choose menu item names that are accurate and informative so that users can predict the result of choosing an item.

Menu item names describe actions that are performed on an object or attributes that are applied to an object. Specifically:

  • Actions are verbs or verb phrases that declare the action that occurs when the user chooses the item. For example, Print means print my document and Copy means copy my selection.

  • Attributes are adjectives or adjective phrases that describe the change the command implements. Adjectives in menus imply an action and they can often fit into the sentence “Change the selected object to …” —for example, Bold or Italic.

Follow these guidelines as you create names for menu items.

In general, avoid including definite or indefinite articles in the menu item name. Including an article is rarely helpful because the user has already made a selection or entered a context to which the command applies. Good examples are “Add Account” instead of “Add an Account” and “Hide Toolbar” instead of “Hide the Toolbar.” Be sure that you use this style consistently in all your menu item names.

Use an ellipsis to show users that further action is required to complete the command. The ellipsis character (…) means that a dialog or a separate window will open in which users need to make additional choices or supply additional information in order to complete the action. For details on when to use an ellipsis in menu items, see Use an Ellipsis When More Input Is Required.

Use title-style capitalization for menu item names. For more information on this style, see Use the Right Capitalization Style in Labels and Text.

If appropriate, define a keyboard shortcut for a frequently used menu item. A keyboard shortcut, such as Command-C for Copy, can make common tasks easier for sophisticated users. Before you create a keyboard shortcut for a custom menu item, be sure to read the guidelines in Providing Keyboard Shortcuts.

Dim unavailable menu items. When a menu item is dimmed (that is, gray), it helps users understand that the item is unavailable because, for example, it doesn’t apply to the selected object or in the current context. A dimmed menu item does not highlight when the user moves the pointer over it.