Primary menus

Primary menus are a standard design pattern that is found in most applications. They are labelled with the menu icon (named menu-open) and contain the top-level menu items for the application. This can include standard items like Preferences, Help and About Application, as well as other application-specific items.

When to use

Most applications have primary menus, since they are the standard location for About Application, which every application is expected to have.


Primary menus are typically placed on the right side of the header bar. However, there are two variations on this rule:

  • If the application incorporates in-window navigation, with a top-level location and sub-pages, the primary menu should only be placed on the top level: sub-pages can include a secondary menu, if a menu is required.

  • When used in combination with a sidebar list, the primary menu should be placed above the sidebar list on the right. If a menu is required for items shown in the content side of the window, a secondary menu can be used.

Other guidelines:

  • Primary menus can contain items for both the current window or view, as well as the application as a whole. This differentiates them from secondary menus, which only contain menu items that relate to a specific view or item.

  • Follow the standard guidelines for menus when deciding on primary menu content and arrangement.

  • A primary menu is contained within a popover. As such, a primary menu can include a variety of controls, such as groups of buttons.

Standard menu items

The following are standard primary menu items, and should be placed in a group at the end of the menu:


Opens the application's preferences dialog, if it has one.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Opens the application's keyboard shortcuts window, if it has one.


Opens the application's user documentation in the Help application.

About Application

Opens the application's about dialog. This item should include the application's name, such as About Photos or About Calculator. Every primary menu should include this item.

Primary menus shouldn’t include menu items for close or quit: windows can already be closed using the close button in the header bar, and it can be ambiguous as to what a close menu item refers to. Users don't readily differentiate between quit and close, and it can therefore be misleading.