Context Menu Key

One of the best usability features in Microsoft Windows is the context menu, also known as the right-click menu. That’s the menu that pops up under the cursor when you right click the mouse, and it shows what actions are available for the object you’ve right-clicked on. It’s a great shortcut to these actions, and in fact it’s a great way to learn just what actions are possible.

Sometimes you’re working on the keyboard, and don’t want to reach over to the mouse to right-click, especially if the object you want to right-click on is already selected. Perhaps the object is too small to click on reliably. Or maybe it can be most easily selected using the arrow keys, like a chart series that is off-scale or hidden behind another series.

If the object is selected, you don’t need to use the mouse to activate the context menu. Near the right end of the bottom row of most keyboards is a button decorated with an icon, which if you look closely, shows a menu and an arrow cursor. I’ve highlighted this button with a green rectangle in this photo. Pressing this button is the same as right-clicking on the selected object.

This button is a nice little timesaver. It’s almost as useful as the Delete key.


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  1. It’s worth noting that Shift-F10 does the exact same thing, if you ever find yourself on a keyboard without that button.

  2. Tony – Your problem is that you use the mouse with the wrong hand.

    Tom – I knew there was a function key for it, but I never remember what it is. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. No kidding huh. I never knew what that key was for. I will say that it seems a bit awkward to reach over with my left hand to the right side of the keyboard when using the mouse with my right hand. But for sole keyboarding or laptop work, that’s a nice feature. Thanks for sharing Jon!

  4. I read somewhere that despite many years of trying to educate users, when Microsoft does usability testing they STILL find lots of people never use the right mouse button, let alone the context menu key.

  5. They also use these studies to justify things like Bob, and the ribbon.

  6. Thank you for pointing me to that key, Jon. I never used it, though I use the context menu a lot. As it is very useful for PowerPoint users, too, I blogged about it yesterday: (in German).

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