Microsoft breaks down context menu changes in Windows 11

Microsoft breaks down context menu changes in Windows 11

A big part of Windows 11 is an entirely new design language. The Start Menu and taskbar are redesigned and centered, and the OS has an entirely new look and feel. One of the smaller changes that was made in Windows 11 is that there are new context menus. In a blog post today, the company talked a bit about what changed, why it was changed, and best practice for developers that are extending the existing context menu.

Microsoft says that the context menu is one of the most popular shell extensions. And as it turned out, there was a lot to improve upon with the Windows 10 context menu. For example, commonly used commands are weirdly low on the context menu list. If I right-click an image in the File Explorer, I have to scroll past things like “Create a new video”, “Edit with Paint 3D”, and dozens of other options before I get to basic commands like copy, paste, delete, and rename.

It’s also super-long. As Microsoft notes in the blog post, it’s grown since Windows XP was introduced 20 years ago. But that’s also how issues come in. The Windows 10 context menu has a ton of things in it that are almost never used. If I open a menu and have to scroll past 25 items to get to where I need to go, and those 25 items are things that I never use, then there’s a problem with the UI.

There’s more too. Microsoft noted that sometimes common commands like “Open” and “Open with” aren’t grouped together. And sometimes, third-party commands can break up inbox commands. Finally, Microsoft noted that there can be performance issues, since these processes from inside of Explorer.

Windows 10 and Windows 11 context menus, along with Windows 11 Share dialog

Windows 10 context menu, Windows 11 context menu, and Windows 11 Share dialog

Those are the problems that Microsoft aimed to solve in Windows 11. Now, common commands are at the top in a row of icons. The point is that for the things that users do the most, those should take the least effort. Therefore, in the Windows 11 context menu, those commands are closer to where the pointer already is. You can see that third-party extensions are grouped together, so they don’t interrupt things. Also, “Open” and “Open with” are actually next to each other.

If you need some of those rarely-used commands that Microsoft has exorcised, or if you just want the old Windows 10 context menu, you can press “Show more options”. You can also pull this up by hitting Shift-F10.

Microsoft also touted some improvements to the Share dialog. The first entry on the contacts list is going to be you, just in case you want to email the item yo yourself. And while the company says that Nearby sharing is easier to use, bigger news is that all apps can now use the Share dialog. That includes unpackaged Win32 apps and web apps.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.