How to Use the Program Menus

Home | Orientation to Computing | Desktop & Taskbar | Starting Program | Window and its Parts | Program Menus | Dialog Boxes | Changing Display Appearance | Tips for Beginners | Printing | Word Processing Basics | Smartphones for Seniors | COMPUTER HELP FOR PEOPLE OVER 50 | INTERNET BASICS FOR SENIORS | HELP WITH WINDOWS XP | WINDOWS 8.1 HELP | BESTNETGURU.COM |

I guess the title of this section could be a little confusing to many. I do not mean "Programs menu" which is the sub-menu that comes out when you click on the Start button and then point to Programs. That menu is used for starting programs or reading latest info about the program (Read Me file) or doing other things with/about the program such as updating or uninstalling the program.

In this section I shall discuss how to use the menubar of a program. Let us use the menubar of the WordPad, which every Windows user has, as example.

WordPad's menubar
WordPad's menubar.

As you can see, the WordPad's command menus are organized in six different categories. They are File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, and Help. In most programs, these are the standard categories though some may be have a few more, some may have less. Notepad has File, Edit, Search, and Help. File, Edit, and Help are available in all programs.

In the above picture, I have clicked on File to see what is available in the dropdown menu under File. First of all, notice the options there are divided in five groups using dividing lines. You can expect this kind of arrangements in all programs. The first group has New, Open, Save, Save As. Notice New, Open, and Save As have three dots (ellipses) next to them which means if you click on any of these, you are going to get a dialog box. File menu of any program will have these options. Sometimes a Close option will alo be there, which lets you close an open file. New lets you start a new file. Open lets you open an existing file (one that you have created before and saved). Save lets you save a file. Save As lets you save a file in a folder of your choice, with a name that you wish to give the file, and a file type (file extension) of your choice. If you are unsure, please read my tutorial on Saving a file here. Normally, when you are saving a file for the first time (newly created file) you should choose 'Save As' so that you can have complete control on where to save, under what name, and what file extension. But even if you, by mistake, click on 'Save', Windows will present you the 'Save As' dialog box. After editing an existing file, you may choose 'Save' or 'Save As' depending on your need and intensions.

The next group offers various printing options. I shall discuss about printing and how to use these options in a later section.

The next group lists the last few files you created and saved with the program. Just clicking on the file's name will open up the file. A time saving convenience.

Next is Send. This option generally lets you fax a document or e-mail a document.

Lastly, Exit. Clicking on this will close the program. (Same effect as clicking on the X button on the program's titlebar). If you forget to save any open file, Windows will ask you whether you want to save it before closing the program.

All programs (using which a document can be created) will have all these basic options under File as the WordPad's File menu. Some larger programs may offer more options. But programs like your anti-virus, or firewall, or fax software, or zip/unzip software and the like will not have these same options. Because they are not used for creating documents.

The purpose of this section is to give you a general idea about the menubar in a program. Each program will have slightly different options under different categories and there may be other categories in their menubar. But the frequently used things will be common in practically every program, like New, Open, Save, Save As, and the Printing options will always be under File. Similarly, options like Undo, Cut, Copy, and Paste will always be under Edit. View menu generally contains things like toolbar, format bar, ruler, statusbar etc. which you can opt to have always in view (clicking on the desired item to put a checkmark in front of it will bring it in view, unchecking it will hide it). The View menu may also contain things like Zoom In or Zoom Out if it is a graphics program.

By now you should be able to guess that under Insert you might have things which will let you insert something in the document. It might be a picture, or a clipart, or date and time, page break, page number, and so forth.

Under Format, in a word processor, you will have things like font style, font size, paragraphing options, line spacing options, bold, italics, and underline options, tab options, bullet styles options, etc.

Help is self-explanatory. You will go there if you need help using the application. And this is the place where you will get information about the software's version number, manufacturer's name, copyright info etc. Under Help, you will always find About (program's name)... - just click on that option to get these informations if you wish.

Under the menubar, most programs for creating documents will have File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Help etc. Larger programs will have more categories there. And under File there will always be New, Open, Save, Save As, Print, and Exit commands besides other things. Undo, cut, copy, and paste will always be under Edit beside other things. Show/hide ruler, toolbar etc., zoom options and the like are always under View. Insert clipart, insert page break, insert page numbers, insert date/time etc. are generally found under Insert. Formatting options such as paragraph, line spacing, tabs, bullets, font style, font size, etc. will be under Format. Help will be under Help (surprise!). If you use your commonsense, judgment, and exprience you will be able to figure out quickly what is to be expected under what. There will be surprises at times. I cannot help giving a restaurant menu analogy here. I remembered about a terrific sesame flavored noodle dish that I once had in a Chinese restaurant. About a year later when we visited the same restaurant, I naturally wanted to order that noodle dish along with other things. But I could not locate that dish in their menu under Noodles. I read again and again thinking that it must be there, I am just missing it. (Chinese restaurant menus are generally very long, as you know). Eventually, I called the waitress and asked her if they had dropped that item from their menu. She said, "God, no. It is one of our most popular items. See, it is right here." She pointed at that item under Appetizers! Since the serving size was pretty large, I never expected it under Appetizers. One can make a full meal with it! So, now you know. There will be surprises at times in the menubar menus also. But, with experience, you will be able to guess correctly most of the things pretty quickly. Whenever you get a new software, always click on each of the categories on the menubar and familiarize yourself with the menu. I always do. That is the only way of learning to use a new software quickly.

Like the start menu, these dropdown menus also sometimes give out sub-menus and dialog boxes giving you more choices. It is like in a restaurant when you are asked to decide between soup and salad, and you decide salad, you are immediately asked what kind of dressing. Take the example of bullets in Microsoft Word. After deciding to go for bullets, you will have to decide which style of bullets! Don't you sometimes wish that life were simpler?

An important note:

Unless you open a file in a program, some of the menubar menu items will be dimmed (grayed out, nothing happens when you click on the option). Many of the options will become available as soon as you open a file. But still some of the commands that you wish to execute may be dimmed until you do something. For example, Cut, Copy and Paste options will be initially dimmed. As soon as you highlight something, Cut and Copy options will come to life, but Paste will still remain dimmed. As soon as you cut or copy something, Paste will come to life. In some programs, even the main categories like File, Edit etc. on the menubar are just a few when you first open the program and there is no open file in it. Just as soon as you open a file, you might notice that the number of main categories on the menubar has suddenly gone up.

Quick Quiz:
Under what in the menubar would you expect to find the Undo command in almost all programs with which a document can be created?

Answer: Under Edit.


<< Window and its Parts

Dialog Boxes >>

Return to top

Copyright © 2005 Silabhadra Sen
All Rights Reserved