Waffle launchers, Hamburger menus, and ellipses

Waffle launchers, Hamburger menus, and ellipses

There are a few terms that we often use during support or training sessions that aren’t always familiar to everyone. These terms are convenient shortcuts that refer to common menu elements in wide use today: you will see them frequently on many apps and websites.

So, what are they and what do they mean?


I’ll start with “ellipsis” (plural: “ellipses”). This is the proper word you can use to refer to the ubiquitous three dots (…) that indicate additional actions hidden from view to reduce clutter. What does it actually mean, though?




Ellipsis (noun); ellipses (plural noun)

the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.

“it is very rare for an ellipsis to occur without a linguistic antecedent”

Synonyms: leaving out, exclusion, exception, noninclusion, deletion, erasure, cut, excision, elimination, absence

Antonyms: addition, inclusion


mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek elleipsis, from elleipein ‘leave out’.

In written English the ellipsis denotes something that is left unsaid, an implication that has been left to the reader to interpret. It’s a little more definitive in technological terms; if you see an ellipsis in an app or on the web, clicking it will reveal additional options or actions you can take – something the developer thought would be used less frequently than the menu options in plain view.

Microsoft Edge, for example, hides all the menu options behind an ellipsis in the browser’s toolbar:

Ellipsis menu example
Ellipsis menu example

SharePoint provides additional contextual menu options for many elements in a view through a vertical ellipsis:

Vertical ellipsis example

Next time someone tells you to click on the ellipsis, you’ll know exactly what they mean!

Waffle Launcher

This one always elicits a chuckle. It’s easy to imagine waffles being launched, but as exciting as that sounds, in this case a waffle launcher is just a button that sorta looks like a waffle and gives you a list of apps you can launch when you click on it – hence, “waffle launcher.”

Both Microsoft and Google use the waffle launcher icon to indicate access to more apps. Here it is for Office 365:

Waffle launcher example
Waffle launcher example

The Waffle Launcher is frequently called the “App Launcher”, but I prefer the other term – it’s more descriptive and way more amusing.

Hamburger Menu

The “hamburger menu” is a gastronomic nickname for another common menu element used hide navigation options – not as exciting as an actual burger menu. Frequently this is used in mobile versions of web sites, and, like the ellipsis, is just a way to indicate that there’s more options for you to explore. It consists of three horizontal lines stacked on top of one another, kinda like the bun and the burger in the middle.

The Bing home page hides some setting options behind a hamburger menu:

Hamburger menu example
Hamburger menu example

One interesting bit of trivia: the icon has been around since around 1980 and was created by Norm Cox of Xerox for the Xerox Star (source: Medium.com).