If you click a separator in a menu, such as the right click menu in Finder, it closes again. Why? In all other environments it does nothing, why has Apple decided to close the menu? Is it to avoid accidental clicks?


Also, clicking at the very top or bottom of a contextual menu does nothing! Talk about consistency. Why are these different to the separators?


As of macOS Sierra, clicking the separator does nothing :D

1 Answer 1



In the original Macintosh's System Software in 1984, Apple decided that releasing the mouse button over a menu separator should dismiss the menu. This was probably because they viewed holding down the mouse button as a form of concentration; letting go of the button meant it should go away. Where the mouse was didn't matter. You could even be outside the menus entirely, but not pointing at anything particular on the screen.

Later, when Apple made menus click instead of hold, the behaviour was copied over. That was years ago, the the behaviour is still the same.

(It actually probably predates 1984; the Lisa probably did the same.)

I think this was absolutely the right behaviour for click-and-hold menus, but click-and-hold requires more coordination than click.

  • Thanks, that makes sense. But even with click and hold you could argue a release within the menu that didn't perform an action shouldn't be considered as the user losing interest in the menu. Hopefully these idiosyncrasies will disappear eventually :) Jul 14, 2012 at 7:17
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    I doubt it. It makes more sense this way. You're used to the other, which was probably done that way because it wasn't the way Apple did it. Apple isn't in the habit of changing right decisions to copy bad imitations. Jul 14, 2012 at 15:15
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    I see the logic for click and hold, letting go on a separator shouldn't leave the menu open, since it's opened by holding down. But for click menus I figure they say "a click should either perform an action or hide the menu" just like the hold menu did. But I'd argue that clicking a separator has no defined behaviour and is almost always an accident by the user. A user would usually click outside the menu to hide it. So I think it's just carried across from the old hardware. Jul 15, 2012 at 3:27
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    Because clicking a separator isn't the intentional way to dismiss a menu. Unlike the rest of the screen, it's part of the menu but doesn't perform a function - it's only purpose is to separate the items. Clicking outside the menu should hide the menu, and clicking inside it shouldn't lose focus. Jul 15, 2012 at 3:35
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    For a company that puts emphasis on usability and design, this is a bad way to show it for both
    – casraf
    Oct 30, 2014 at 12:32

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