A sidebar is a form of auxiliary menu which can be found at the edge of a web page or application, with many operating systems also using sidebars as a form of menu for desktop navigation. Sidebars can contain a wide variety of information, and they are often designed to be configurable by the user so that he or she can keep commonly used tools and information in an easily accessible site. Sidebars may be located to the left or the right of the main application, depending on the taste of the user and the language he or she works in.
For applications, a sidebar can hold a number of commonly used tools and provide a form of navigation. Instead of having to enter drop down menus at the top of the application, a user can quickly grab a tool he or she needs. For example, in a photo editing program, sidebars might contain a range of commonly used tools, with the user potentially having the option to put favorite tools in the sidebar and remove infrequently used tools. Some sidebars are collapsible, allowing the user to hide the menu when it is not in use to avoid visual distractions.
Website navigation often features sidebars. The website may also include menu navigation at the top of the page as well, depending on the design. Sidebars can include navigation tools along with widgets and other information which the site owner thinks might be useful for visitors. Bloggers are particularly fond of sidebar navigation, using the sidebar to display links to archives, site policies, copyright notices, blogrolls, and other information for users.
Many blogging templates come with a sidebar built in, allowing the user to manipulate the contents to suit. Bloggers can also build their own sidebars from scratch. Sidebar navigation on other types of websites can be hand coded, or accomplished with drop-in code designed by someone else, depending on the taste and comfort level of the person creating the website.
A desktop sidebar as seen in many operating systems is usually configurable by the user, with the user determining which programs are in the sidebar, and adding shortcuts to commonly used folders or files. Sidebar navigation can be easier than going through the drop down menus, saving time for the user by allowing him or her to access tools with one click. Sidebars may also be known as “docks” in some operating systems.