Action menu

Action menu is composed of action list and overlay patterns used for quick actions and selections.

Looking for contributors to add submenus to the React and Rails implementation, as they are currently not available in this component.


An action menu comprises a set of action list items, where each item represents an action, command, submenu, or the current selection that can be either a single or multi-select. The action menu can be invoked by clicking on a button, icon button, or right-clicking on the list items.

Three instances of action menus. The initial one comprises an icon button that provides two actions. The second one displays a button labeled View:Table and presents three choices (Table, Board, and Roadmap), with Table being the currently selected option. Finally, the third menu is a context menu that appears on right-click and contains a diverse set of options, including single select, submenus, and actions.

The action menu is an extremely versatile component that is not restricted to a single type of action list items at a time. It can be used to create a combination of single select, multi-select, commands, and submenus.

By using dividers and section titles, a hierarchy can be established within the action menu, making it easier to navigate and understand. This allows users to quickly find and access the actions they need, while also providing a clear and organized structure to the menu.

Five examples of how an action menu can be utilized, which includes a context menu, multi-select, single-select, actions, and a combination of multi-select and single-select.

As the action menu is a highly adaptable component, it's crucial to keep the interactions with individual items limited. The following interactions are recommended:

  • enter, click, or tap: These actions trigger an action or navigate into a submenu, based on the selected item.
  • arrow left, arrow up, arrow down, arrow right: These actions can be used to navigate the menu, allowing the user to move between items and submenus with ease.

Menus are a commonly used feature across multiple platforms, and both Apple and Microsoft have detailed documentation on their menus. To create a pleasant user experience, it's important to follow their expected behavior closely.


Action menu opened with an internal `Settings` label. Several elements are emphasized, such as the trigger, actions, overlay menu, trailing visual shortcuts, trailing visual submenu indicator, and the 3 dot dialog indicator.



Action menus can be opened through a button, icon button or by right clicking list items that have a custom context menu associated with them.


Use a button to open a menu.


Don’t use a link to open a menu.

When using a button the menu can be opened by clicking or tapping it. When it's focused it can also be opened by hitting return, space or any arrow key.

Open by clicking the trigger button with a mouse

Open by focusing the trigger button and hitting return, space, or any arrow key


The menu will close when pressing the esc or tab key or when pressing enter when a item is focused. Additionally clicking outside the menu item or clicking on a item will close the menu as well.

Close the menu by clicking on an item, clicking on the trigger, or clicking anywhere outside the menu.

Close the menu by hitting enter on an item, esc or tab.

Single and multi select

Single select menu closes upon selection and may update the button label.

Multi select menu closes upon selection and can be re-opened to select more options.

Avoid input controls

The focus should always remain on menu items, and therefore the menu shouldn't include additional form elements like button, input, or checkbox.


Use action menu for quick actions.


Don't add form controls like a filterable input, use [select panel](/components/selectpanel) instead.

While single and multi selection is offered within a menu, the underlying semantics are not true form elements.


Use a checkmark icon for selections.


Don't use form elements within a menu.


Consistent alignment of icons, titles, and trailing visuals is critical to ensure that the menu is easily scannable. This is especially important when combining single or multi-select items with non-select items.


When a menu includes a single select or multi select then all the items in the menu should be indented.


Don't create invidiual alignments when your menu contains a single or multi select.


When designing menus, it is crucial to adhere to the meaning of the icons used. If any item in the menu does not have a corresponding icon, then all items in that menu should be presented without icons.


When one of the items doesn't have an icon then remove icons altogether.


Don't mix items with or without icons as this makes it harder to read.

Especially when providing single or multi select items that rely on a crossmark icon should be avoided as they could be confused with the item's checkmark.


Avoid the usage of icons if the icon conflicts with the selected states checkmark.


Don't use crossmark icons for single or multi select items.


To enhance the readability of menus that contain numerous item descriptions, it is recommended to incorporate dividers. This can effectively prevent the menu from becoming overwhelming.


Introduce dividers for items with heavy descriptions to improve readability.


Don't forget to add dividers when the menu content starts to look heavy.

Trailing visuals

Avoid using trailing visuals to add additional interactions, which reserves them for submenu indicators or keyboard shortcuts.


Create a new section for additional functionality.


Don't store additional toggleable functionality in trailing visuals.


A menu with multiple levels is a common UI component used in desktop and mobile applications. It allows users to access nested subitems without cluttering the screen.

Action menu opened with a label for the trigger (button), overlay (menu), and the internal action list.

It's important to understand that menus can't include additional form elements like inputs. That means if you want to provide a input that filters the subitems that you can't rely on this component. Alternatively, you can use a select panel or open a dialog instead of a submenu.


If you want to present filterable data open a dialog instead of a submenu.


Don't use form elements inside a menu.

Since you can't include form elements within a menu that also means that you can't combine a select panel with a action menu.


If you want to present filterable data do this through a dialog.


Don't mix select panels with action menus.

When using submenus, don't use the trailing visual to communicate selected values within its submenu. Leave this space for submenu indicators.


Use trailing visuals for submenu indicators or keyboard shortcuts.


Don't use trailing visual to communicate selected items in submenus.

On smaller viewports, the menu should always be re-positioned to fit within the viewport. This could mean that a submenu overlaps it's parent menu.


Reposition menus to stay within the viewport, especially on narrow viewports.


Don't position menus off screen, especially on narrow viewports.



Menus can be triggered through a button, icon button or right clicking list items. For simple select menus that display the selection in a button, a label must be persist either internally or externally.


Here is an overview of action list items that are compatible with menus:

  • Action: Triggers an action or dialog. Trailing visuals can be used for keyboard shortcuts.
  • Single/multi select: Represented by a check and never a HTML checkbox. Trailing visuals can be used for keyboard shortcuts.
  • Submenu: Represented by a chevron-right as a trailing visual.
  • Section header: To add clarification to a section.
  • Divider: To create sections for your selections, actions or submenus.


See focus management for more information.

When a menu is open, hitting a letter key for the first letter in an item to be selected will move focus to that item. If two items have the same first letter, the first item in the list will be focused first, and hitting the letter key again will focus the next item.

Keyboard navigation

Trigger button

EnterOpens the menu.
SpaceOpens the menu.
ArrowDownOpens the menu.
ArrowUpOpens the menu.
ArrowLeftOpens the menu.
ArrowRightOpens the menu.
ArrowUpCycle through items starting with current item to previous item
ArrowDownCycle through items starting with current item to next item
ArrowLeftCloses submenu and sets focus back to the parent item
ArrowRightOpens a submenu
HomeMove focus to first item
PageUpMove focus to first item
EndMove focus to last item
PageDownMove focus to last item
EscClose menu

Known accessibility issues (GitHub staff only)

View open accessibility issues related to this component