Goodbye menu button, hello Action Bar overflow! Today on the Android Developers blog Scott Main, lead technical writer from Google, wrote up a nice piece of prose about how developers should migrate away from the traditional menu-button based way of designing applications. You see, Ice Cream Sandwich allows for the folks designing phones to do away with all those buttons we've grown accustomed to at the bottom of our screen, and replace them with software based buttons built into the OS and apps. It's something we first saw in Honeycomb tablets, where the need for menu buttons was removed by the introduction of the ActionBar class.
Google wants developers, and in turn us users, to learn to love the Action Bar. Scott gives examples of how the new Action Bar "overflow" (those three dots that replace a menu button in ICS) can replace what we traditionally needed a menu button for, and even how to build applications to use both methods -- developers don't want to forget all the devices that haven't been updated to Ice Cream Sandwich yet. It's an interesting read for those who keep up with Android application interface guidelines, and a must-read for all you developers out there.
Most importantly, Scott stresses that the application UI should have all the important elements right up front for the user to see, and the overflow should be used for things not important enough to be on the screen. He also gives instruction on how to make the legacy menu button not appear if it's not being used, and how to get rid of the whole Action Bar if an application doesn't need it. As developers get their apps updated for ICS and beyond, we'll be able to say goodbye to those three dots we chase all over on "buttonless" phones and tablets. That's a good thing.
Source: Android Developers Blog. Thanks, Sebastian!