Old vs New Windows: the contextual menu

Microsoft is slowly pushing Fluent, its new design philosophy, through Windows and all of its other apps. It’s doing it too slowly to my taste, but I do like this design very much.

If you’re not familiar with Windows, here is a screenshot of a standard/non-Fluent contextual menu, it’s a right-click on some file on the desktop:

There is no order and no logic in this mess. Why is that some entries do have icons but not the others? And why is that that Open With is not put next to Open, but lost somewhere near the bottom of the menu? Some commands seem redundant (Share vs Send to, Open with Code and Open with, Rename and Bulk rename Here). Other useful entries are hidden behind sub-menus, while non-essential one are wasting precious space (hi, each one of OneDrive entries).

The entry to create a zip—oddly named Compressed (zipped) folder—is stuck in the Send to menu, why? And why do I have a Send to-> Desktop (create shortcut) sub-entry while I already have a Create shortcut near the bottom of the main menu? And so on.

A mess, to put it mildly.

Now, here is a sample of a Fluent contextual menu. It’s not the same contextual menu but it still gives an idea of what our menu could look like once modernized. It’s taken from the latest Insider (beta) version of OneNote:

Simpler, cleaner and somewhat organized. It’s not perfect, though:

  • Some buttons do not seem to be correctly aligned.
  • What is Link and how does it differ from Copy Link to Paragraph?
  • Some entries and buttons, not all, have sub-entries or their own pop-up window. That’d not be a problem if there was a visual indication that there is a sub-menu.

  • Why is there a light border around this pop-up window, and not around the main contextual menu? I like having such a border; it makes the window easier to see.
  • And why different font size?
  • How will it scale with longer menus? No idea.

That said, as I wrote earlier, I like this design and the direction in which Microsoft is pushing it. It has so much potential, it’s exciting.

And it’s already a pleasure to use… the seldom places where it is available. I want more of it. And not in homeopathic doses like you did the last few years, Microsoft. Don’t be shy, you’ve got something great here, share it widely and be proud of it.

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