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Let’s talk about the all-caps menus.

When we shared the RC design preview with you, we expected the uppercase menu would generate mixed feedback and emotions. We had seen similar reactions from early adopters and from our own internal users prior to posting about it. Rest assured that we’ve heard you, and we’ve been thinking through what should be done here. Using uppercase for the menus was not an arbitrary decision, and I think it will help the discussion to frame why we made this change.

We’ve chosen to use uppercase styling in the top menu for two main reasons: 1) to keep Visual Studio consistent with the direction of other Microsoft user experiences, and 2) to provide added structure to the top menu bar area.

On the first point, the use of uppercase text is becoming a strong signature element of styling for navigation and headings in Microsoft user interfaces. You can see it in the Azure Portal, in Zune, and in the latest Bing search results update.

On the second point, we explored designs with and without uppercase styling. In the end we determined it to be a very effective way of providing structure and emphasis to the top menu area in Visual Studio 2012.

Standard Case


Based on early feedback on this application of uppercase styling, we made two modifications to our design. First, we tuned the typography of the menu to better adjust to uppercase text, including increased spacing between menu items from 14px to 20px to make menu items stand out better. Secondly, we moved Quick Launch to the title bar to make more room on the menu bar, especially for cases where a user has installed add-ins that add their own top-level menus.

As with most style changes, there has been both positive and negative feedback. We realize that some of you will continue to dislike this change, and you’ve been very direct in expressing your opinions on this subject.  Our view remains that this is the right design for the Visual Studio user interface for the reasons I mentioned above. That said, we will enable you to customize the casing, and we are exploring options for how to expose that choice. We will post again once we’ve settled on a final approach to be available in RTM.

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  • I don't care if you use them or not, the monochrome icons are the issue for me.  Have you heard of "digging yourself in a hole"?  Equating website typography to Windows apps is crazy.  You could have simply said that RTM will let you opt out.  These answers that dance all around the real reason aren't making you look good.

  • Who writes this crap anyways? Is this a renegade, last ditch effort for somebody to save face in the company by trying to make it sound like this was not a total waste of time? "Rest assured that we’ve heard you, and we’ve been thinking through what should be done here"? The only thing we've been assured of is that when somebody gets a directive to do something, likely in the form of a commitment or team requirement, there's no amount of logic, common sense, or customer feedback that can stop it. If only developer productivity could be given as much time and effort as a corporate style mandate to make the world metro. What's next, the MICROSOFT logo? Re-branding of bing? Maybe we can just get rid of the shift keys like we did the start menu and create a world of only caps.

  • I'm still not convinced but I applaud the fact that you're being open about your design decisions with blog posts such as these. Will you cover the rationale for having no express edition that can produce desktop apps as well?

  • A couple of points here: First you may be distinguishing the line of menu options in all caps, however the all caps make each individual word LESS glancible. I have more cognitive dissonance when trying to glance to the menu and select the right option when the words are all caps.

    Second, by adding more space between the words, it is less likely that the entire menu will display on smaller resolutions (or when presenting on a projector that only supports 1024/768.

    Third, the amount of feedback that you are getting against the all caps should give Microsoft Corp an indication that the decision to use all caps in menus across their assets might be a BAD thing in the other apps as well. This wouldn't be the first time that a focus group provided contradictory information to the masses that use a platform daily.  I have to wonder what kinds of questions were asked of the focus group to get them to indicate that the all caps was a good idea. Surveys are often made to elicit a desired response rather than to get true respondent sentiment.

  • "to provide added structure to the top menu bar area"

    How? How does the capitalisation provide 'added structure'?  It's still a flat list of menu titles.  What is the 'structure' that has been 'added'?

  • ....for two main reasons.... because some other team at Microsoft thought it would look good somewhere else.... And because we felt like we needed to change it some more.

  • @Jacob

    "2) Menus don't need emphasis. They've been the same literally from the beginning of Windows. We're used to them. We know where they are. We know what they look like. And they're one of the most universal and intuitive pieces of UI."

    You are not considering the fact that there are many people using a computer for the first time right now. Usability has to improve everyday. People always complain about the ribbon, but they're a huge win for newcomers. Software needs to become usable for the sake of the next generation.

    IF there's enough research to sustain the argument of emphasis, then it's a good choice in the long term.

  • My word people. They will give you an option to change the casing. Get over it already.

  • Caps does not bother me, because I'm no native English speaker. I even like caps better, if purely in art aspect.

    However, it does seem to contradict with what you said about Metro - emphasize the content. Menu bar is not content, why let it stand out? When we work with VS, we don't look at menu 99.99% of the time. (You know, we use shortcut keys more.) They are never worth attention. It is even OK to fade them out to gray when I don't use them.

  • I'm amazed at how many people seem to use Visual Studio for no reason other than to look at the menus. I personally use it to write software and not to read menu text all day long.

    I'm also a confident enough a person to not get upset when I see some text in upper case and think that the author/ code/ etc is shouting at me and I need a hug to protect myself from the big scary world.

  • Thanks a ton for be honest, but this is not azure,  zune or office, we are power users, we need to keep our minds in the code, not in the tool !!

    At least provide some of these options:

    1) Customize to disable the UPPER CASE (I already do it with the regkey)

    2) Allow customize the color of the menu, maybe UPPERCASE with some kind of gray become less agressive

    3) Allow to hide the menu from the options (So we dont need to install another extension for that)

    All is about distraction, THE UPPER CASE MENU DISTRACT THE DEVELOPERS, the old style is better !!

  • "You are not considering the fact that there are many people using a computer for the first time right now."

    Yeah, lots of people are using Visual Studio the first time they ever use a computer.

  • You trying to add UI styles for *other types of interfaces* to the traditional Windows UI. That's where you are misguided. Azure Portal is a WEB PAGE. The Metro look and feel belongs TO METRO APPS. If this was really about looking like next-gen UIs, it would have a ribbon, like the *new* Explorer (along with regular menus)...a *Desktop* application.

  • The case of the menu text doesn't bother me. What I still wonder is... why aren't you making use of the ribbon? One of the most frustrating things about Visual Studio, is when you change context - menubars get added and the code window shifts up and down. The ribbon bar would be a constant size.

  • "very effective way of providing ...emphasis to the top menu area in Visual Studio 2012."

    This is the problem with it from a design perspective - Why would you want to give the main menu emphasis? In the other cases you listed the menu IS the main form of navigation and as such deserves emphasis. In Visual Studio the main menu is the last resort way of finding something - first is shortcut keys, next toolbar, now the Quick Launch, and ONLY then do you go to the main menu.

    And it's not only Visual Studio where the Main menu is considered such a last resort mechanism. Look at Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. All of these programs consider the main menu so unimportant that the actually don't show it until you hit the alt key!

    But as I've said before, it doesn't really bother me as I hide the main menu anyway. I just wish it wasn't done so we could stop focusing on it and discuss other things which are actually important.

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