Why Mac menus are on the top

Disclaimer: despite the title, this is not a post about fast food. 🙂

I always wondered why Apple decided to place their menu bar on top on the screen, rather than inside the window it belongs to. I couldn’t find any good reason for that choice until last week, when I spoke with a couple of colleagues.

Mac OS X menu bar

It turned that not only there is a reason, but it’s also quite clever! And it’s the same that led Microsoft to put the Start menu on the bottom left corner: stuff on the edges of the screen is just easier to hit.

Almost no aim is needed to bring the mouse over something that lies right on the border of the screen: you just have throw the cursor in the right direction and it will stop by bumping against the frame of your monitor. It makes things a lot easier, especially for those users who are not that nimble with the mouse. 😉

Back to Mac OS menus: if you move the mouse cursor up on the screen, it stops right over the menus. Clever, isn’t it?

Now that I understand that I can’t help but consider the title bars of maximized windows on Windows a waste of potentially high value space. But there are at least a couple of notable exceptions.

a. Microsoft Office 2007, which allows users to put buttons on the title bar

Office 2007

b. Google Chrome, which dropped the plain old title bar and uses that space to display tabs

Chrome’s title bar hosts tabs

Could that be the beginning of a trend?

Alessandro Bahgat
Software Engineer & Manager

I am an engineer and manager of engineers, I sometimes play with side projects and write about my experiences in my spare time.

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