HCIL-86-04

Koved, L., Shneiderman, B.
April 1986
Communications of the ACM 29, 4, 312-318. Also (Aug. 13, 1985), IBM Research Report RC 11310. Reprinted in Hebrew in Maaseh-Hoshev. Also Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneiderman, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 67-77.
HCIL-86-04, CS-TR-1562, CAR-TR-153
Menus can be categorized as either embedded or explicit. The difference between embedded and explicit menus is the context in which the menu items are presented. Explicit menus are the type of menus with which most people are familiar. They usually present a list of items from which the user can make a selection. Embedded menus provide an alternative, where the menu items are embedded within the information being presented on the computer display. For example, if several paragraphs of text are to be displayed to the user, words or phrases within the text can be menu items that are highlighted or underlined. The user can choose one of these items by pointing to it and selecting it. The embedded menus offer advantages over traditional menus. Embedded menus can reduce the complexity of decision making in comparison to explicit menus because the menu choices are presented within their original context. They also reduce the space required to display menus, thereby allowing more information to be presented to the user. Initial experimental results show that embedded menus allow people to work faster than with traditional menu or command driven systems. In addition, people prefer embedded menus over other methods.
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