Menu bar on Macintoshes

2 Jul 2004 - 8:15am
491 reads
Larry Tesler

Apple's menu bar first appeared on the Lisa.

The mechanics of the Lisa menu bar are described, without design
justification, in an Apple internal memo by Bill Atkinson dated
September 20, 1980. Visit Find "Lisa User
Interface Standards Document". Download the PDF (27 pages, 2.6 MB).
Turn to page 9 (13th page of the PDF).

We decided to put the menu bar at the top of the screen so that:

(1) the menu bar would always fit on one line, even if the window was narrow;

(2) every menu with fewer than a knowable number of items would fit
on the screen without scrolling, even if the window was low on the

(3) when two windows overlapped with a small vertical offset, the
user would not accidentally click the menu of the inactive window;

(4) some menu items applied to the entire system, not only to the
active window;

(5) every menu and menu item would always be in the same memorable place.

Lisa 1983 720x364 rectangular pixels (50% taller than wide)
Mac 128 1984 512x384 square pixels
Mac II 1987 640x480 square color pixels

When Apple developed the Mac II, which could take a video card with
1024x768 resolution, we were concerned about the long distance the
mouse would have to move to reach the menu bar. Dan Venolia developed
mouse acceleration to solve the problem. I am sure that someone at
Apple will come up with a suitable solution for the 30" display.

Larry Tesler
Manager, Lisa Applications and User Interface, 1980-82

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