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GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual

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22.12.5 The Menu Bar

Most window systems allow each frame to have a menu bar---a permanently displayed menu stretching horizontally across the top of the frame. The items of the menu bar are the subcommands of the fake "function key" menu-bar, as defined by all the active keymaps.

To add an item to the menu bar, invent a fake "function key" of your own (let's call it key), and make a binding for the key sequence [menu-bar key]. Most often, the binding is a menu keymap, so that pressing a button on the menu bar item leads to another menu.

When more than one active keymap defines the same fake function key for the menu bar, the item appears just once. If the user clicks on that menu bar item, it brings up a single, combined menu containing all the subcommands of that item--the global subcommands, the local subcommands, and the minor mode subcommands.

The variable overriding-local-map is normally ignored when determining the menu bar contents. That is, the menu bar is computed from the keymaps that would be active if overriding-local-map were nil. See section 22.6 Active Keymaps.

In order for a frame to display a menu bar, its menu-bar-lines parameter must be greater than zero. Emacs uses just one line for the menu bar itself; if you specify more than one line, the other lines serve to separate the menu bar from the windows in the frame. We recommend 1 or 2 as the value of menu-bar-lines. See section 29.3.3 Window Frame Parameters.

Here's an example of setting up a menu bar item:

 
(modify-frame-parameters (selected-frame)
                         '((menu-bar-lines . 2)))

;; Make a menu keymap (with a prompt string)
;; and make it the menu bar item's definition.
(define-key global-map [menu-bar words]
  (cons "Words" (make-sparse-keymap "Words")))

;; Define specific subcommands in this menu.
(define-key global-map
  [menu-bar words forward]
  '("Forward word" . forward-word))
(define-key global-map
  [menu-bar words backward]
  '("Backward word" . backward-word))

A local keymap can cancel a menu bar item made by the global keymap by rebinding the same fake function key with undefined as the binding. For example, this is how Dired suppresses the `Edit' menu bar item:

 
(define-key dired-mode-map [menu-bar edit] 'undefined)

edit is the fake function key used by the global map for the `Edit' menu bar item. The main reason to suppress a global menu bar item is to regain space for mode-specific items.

Variable: menu-bar-final-items
Normally the menu bar shows global items followed by items defined by the local maps.

This variable holds a list of fake function keys for items to display at the end of the menu bar rather than in normal sequence. The default value is (help-menu); thus, the `Help' menu item normally appears at the end of the menu bar, following local menu items.

Variable: menu-bar-update-hook
This normal hook is run whenever the user clicks on the menu bar, before displaying a submenu. You can use it to update submenus whose contents should vary.


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