There has always been confusion by Windows
users as to what is a shortcut menu (commonly called context
menus [note 1]) and how do you
them. They are a very handy way to get to various command
options for a particular item. You want to move/cut/copy
anything - use the shortcut menu. Need to get to the
properties of an item - use the shortcut menu. Shortcut
menus are used in every program from Word to Explorer to
the Start Menu to the Window desktop. Once you understand what
shortcut menus are
you will wonder why you weren't always using them. So in my
humble way I will try to explain shortcut menus.
note: If you took our advice and purchased Windows
2000 Pro: The Missing Manual then read about
shortcut menus at page 15
So What Are They Already!
To the right are several examples of shortcut menus for
A shortcut menu is first a menu. It is a very special
menu. It is special because it is different for every type
of item that there are shortcut menus for. A shortcut menu
for a file is different than a shortcut menu for a Start
Menu item. If you are working in a program like Word you
can have shortcut menus that entirely different from shortcut
menus for Excel.
In short a shortcut menu is a menu specific to an item.
No two shortcut menus are alike. They do have similar menu
names but their actions are dependant on the item.
For instance the most common menu name you will see in shortcut
menus is Properties. Selecting Properties
for one item will get you the properties for that item.
Just like Man is different than Woman properties
are different for a file in Windows Explorer than text in
Word for Windows.
Another example is shortcut menus for files in Windows
Explorer. On the right you have 3 shortcut menus: picture
files, and Word
documents. They all have an item named open.
The difference is that each one will open a different program.
How they know which program to open is magic. No? Well
knowing what program to open involves file association
and that will be covered in a future article. My point is
that shortcut menus are unique for each file type.
How Do I Get A Shortcut Menu?
Using The Mouse
If you use the mouse in your right hand then clicking
the right button will give you the shortcut menu for the
item selected. As many people tell me when I talk about
Windows and shortcut menus: So that's what that button
is used for! It's that simple.
If you use the mouse
in your left hand then clicking the left button will give you the shortcut menu
for the item selected. Have fun lefties.
Using The Keyboard
If you have a Windows keyboard (they have the Windows
key) then you also have an Application key. This
key will have an image of a menu with a pointer. The
Application key will get you the shortcut menu for an
item. It doesn't work everywhere so I generally don't use
it. But give it a try. You never know.
Open Internet Explorer. With your mouse get the
shortcut menu for any Web page. Now hold your pointer over
a graphic on any web page and get the shortcut menu. Are
they alike? No? If you travel the Web then get familiar
with these two shortcut menus. You will use them many
ps: I tried this exercise with the Application
key and it didn't give me a different shortcut menu for a
graphic. Another reason I don't use the Application key.