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Accessing the Menu Bar in Windows Vista and Windows 7

By July 11, 2010 January 3rd, 2011 Tips & Tricks

Before the introduction of Vista, Windows always featured a menu bar in Windows Explorer. It offered the following menu options: File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, and Help. Below is a screenshot of the bar in Windows Server 2003:

Windows Explorer interface in Windows Server 2003

Since Vista, Microsoft has decided to hide the bar, by default. In Windows 7, here’s what Windows Explorer looks like:

Windows Explorer interface in Windows 7

While the menu bar is no longer visible, it hasn’t been completely removed from the operating system. You can simply press ALT to make it appear. Once visible, it is designed to disappear whenever you left-click the Windows Explorer window. If you actually click the menu, you can execute one action, and then the bar will disappear again. In this¬†manner, Windows ensures that the menu bar is never left to waste window space. Here’s a video illustrating this behavior:

I really like this approach, and actually found that other applications feature the same logic. For example, Internet Explorer 8, Windows Live Messenger, and Firefox 4 Beta 1 also show/hide the menu bar whenever ALT is pressed. I’m hoping it becomes a global standard for applications.

You also have the option of permanently showing menus… an option I don’t personally like. If you want to try that option, follow these steps:

  1. Click Organize > Folder and search options in Windows Explorer.
  2. In the Folder Options dialog, click the View tab.
  3. In the Advanced Settings section, you’ll find an option titled Always show menus. Enable the checkbox.
  4. Click OK.