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, as well as other application-specific items.

Primary menus are typically located on the right side of the header bar. When used in combination with a sidebar list, the primary menu should be placed above the sidebar list.

When to use

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


  • 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.

  • Applications which use in-window navigation should only show the primary menu on the top-level view (typically the main view that is shown when the app is launched). Child views, such as those that show individual items of content, should use secondary rather than primary menus.

  • 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 header bar menu can include a variety of controls, such as groups of buttons.

  • 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.