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What Is a Context Menu

A context menu is the menu that appears when you right-click on something on your screen, hence the reason why it is also referred to as the "right-click menu." Most modern programs and operating systems use context menus as a way of conveniently proving various options to the user without having to clutter up the screen unnecessarily. The reason that the menus are contextual is that they are related to whatever you right-clicked on. For example, if you right click on your desktop in Windows, you'll be presented with a menu containing links to relevant tasks, such as changing your desktop background or choosing which icons are displayed on the desktop.

Context menus are efficient, since they only appear when they are required. You can think of context menus as a streamlined set of options which would otherwise appear at the top of the program in the form of a toolbar or menu. For example, if you're using Microsoft Word, bringing up the context menu by right-clicking on some text in the document will provide you with things such as links to font and paragraph settings as well as alternative spellings if the word that you right-clicked on was spelled incorrectly.

Some context menus, such as those which appear when you right-click on a file, folder or drive in Windows Explorer, are customizable by making some tweaks to the system registry. There are various tweaks which allow you to add a variety of useful extra functions to the context menu, such as "Open with Notepad" etc. Installing certain programs will add new functions to the Windows Explorer context menu as well. For example, installing a file compression and archiving utility will add extra functions for compressing and extracting files to the Explorer context menu.

It is also worth noting that Windows 7 provides an expanded context menu when browsing through the drives and folders on your computer, although it is not immediately obvious how to view it. To view the expanded context menu, simply hold down SHIFT on your keyboard and right-click on the file, folder or drive. You'll notice that there are several more options included in the context menu. These will only appear when you press this button combination, however.


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