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Microsoft breaks down how its fixing the right-click context menu in Windows 11

Windows 11 new context menu
Windows 11 new context menu (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 includes a revamped right-click context menu that brings an improved look and functionality.
  • Microsoft breaks down the changes in a new developer blog post.
  • The right-click context menu has "grown in an unregulated environment for 20 years," according to Microsoft.

Windows 11 brings a refreshed look to many parts of the operating system, but changes to core elements aren't merely cosmetic. A developer blog post from Microsoft breaks down how the right-click context menu within Windows 11 has been improved.

Microsoft explains that the context menu has "grown in an unregulated environment for 20 years, since Windows XP, when IContextMenu was introduced." As a result, it has many issues, including related commands being far apart, showing commands that almost no one uses, and the most common commands being far away from where the menu opens. Microsoft worked to address these issues in Windows 11.

The blog highlights ways that Windows 11 fixes the ongoing context menu problems:

  • Common commands are placed right next to where the menu is invoked.
  • "Open" and "Open with" are grouped together.
  • Apps extend the menu with IExplorerCommand + app identity. Unpackaged Win32 apps can use Sparse Manifests. IExplorerCommand support extends back to Windows 7.
  • App extensions are grouped together below Shell verbs.
  • Cloud Files provider apps are placed next to the Shell commands to hydrate or dehydrate the file.
  • Apps with more than 1 verb are grouped into a flyout with app attribution.
  • "Show more options" loads the Windows 10 context menu as-is for access to low-use Shell verbs and apps still working on porting over. No commands have been removed entirely.
  • Shift-F10 or the keyboard menu key will also load the Windows 10 context menu.

Windows 11 New Context Menu (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 Old Context Menu (Image credit: Microsoft)

Source: Microsoft

The context menu above on the left is from Windows 11, while the older design from Windows 10 is shown on the right.

Microsoft also guides developers on the best practices to make apps work well with the right-click context menu.

Microsoft is still working on the context menus in Windows 11. For example, the latest Windows 11 Insider preview build brings acrylic material to context menus and right-click menus.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

18 Comments
  • Finally, the context menus get so cluttered and rearranged when you install apps that use them. I'm glad MS is putting some organization to it.
  • This is, honestly, bigger news than any other W11 stuff so far. Aesthetics counts, for sure, but not as much as ease of use.
  • Speaking of easy of use, how about bringing back the virtual touch pad, using your Surface as a tablet is pretty much impossible without it (which of course says something about how terrible tablet mode is in general that you needed virtual trackpad to navigate.)
  • Ah but W11 appears to make big improvements in this regard. It's certainly something I'm looking forward to. You may want to check out some of the W11 content here.
  • No it doesnt. Sure hitboxes are bigger, but on windows 11 right now apps dont start in fullscreen and the gestures to close or splitscreen are gone (why microsoft, why) ... now you have to use your finger like a mouse. Plus resizing windows seems to be alot slower, idk why maybe because of the blur effect..
  • No Cut on the W11 context menu, thats worrying
  • You seemed to have missed the top row of the context menu
  • I don't think so. I see only "copy."
  • I thought the same ^^ Click the image to see everything :D
  • From L-R in the top row
    Cut, copy , paste, rename, share and delete
  • I'm not a fan of "how more options", but the top row is *chef's kiss*
  • Just like everything else... "we're only going to show you the things we want you to see as dictated by us, not all of the things that everyone might want to see as dictated by the context" Isn't a toolbox supposed to have all of the tools that you might need to use? not just the ones that the people who made the toolbox want in it?
  • except, it does show you different options based on context. Due to the way it's designed, the differences are much more noticeable than previous versions of windows. You do have a point, though. There needs to be a centralized way to disable/enable/group menu options. I'm slightly disappointed that they didn't use Shift+RightClick as a shortcut for the old menu options. Windows 10 used that shortcut to show more options in the menu (like copy URL, open terminal, etc). Hope they make it more accessible before release.
  • Miles better. It's been a mess for years.
  • I'm so glad they changed these, the new menus look way more organised and somehow more clickable
  • Finally, a miracle is happening for the right click.
  • I don't know if the hype is enough for developers to care about updating their apps just for this, MS provided guidelines but there is no guarantee everybody will follow them. But most importantly, Is Microsoft really releasing a tablet version of Windows into desktop/laptops forms factor? wow! I didn't know *most* people copy files using right click / Copy and then right click again and selecting Paste instead of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.
  • You can no longer right click to install which is horrible. That means if you have 20 fonts or even every variant of a single font (sometimes like 10 fonts) you have to double click and open each on and click install. You can no longer select all of them, right click, hit install. So dumb.