When using some applications in Mac’s OS X Lion, you may find that your menu bar disappears when you’re using applications like Word. This is most likely because Mac OS X Lion is running the program in fullscreen mode.

Mac OS X Menu Bar
The Mac OS X menu bar

The reason your menu bar disappears – or auto-hides –  when you’re using applications like Microsoft Word (part of the Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac software suite) is that the Mac OS X Lion is running the program in fullscreen mode.
This is a feature of OS X that has been around (quietly) for the last few versions of the operating system, but which was “pushed” a lot more heavily with the release of OS X Lion, last summer.

Much to my personal surprise, there is no option in Mac OS X Lion to “always show” the menu bar when in fullscreen mode.

The solution for us, then, should be pretty simple: exit full screen mode.
Theoretically, we can exit fullscreen mode by clicking on a blue icon with the arrows that appears on the menu bar when in fullscreen mode:

Blue icone on menu bar
Blue icon on Mac OS X Lion menu bar, to exit fullscreen mode

However! … this blue icon is not always present when in fullscreen mode.

This is because some programs – like Microsoft Word for Mac – were written and released in 2011, before the release of Mac OS X Lion.
These programs were not created to work seamlessly with Lion’s new fullscreen feature.  In fact, Word actually has its own full screen mode, that behaves differently from the Mac OS X fullscreen mode.
This can lead to some glitches that prevent this blue icon from always appearing.
(This glitch can also be very obvious with Google Chrome users, as lamented here:

Thankfully, if you find the menu bar hiding because you’re in full screen mode, and the blue icon is not there, you can use a handy keystroke to exit fullscreen mode.
It’s not the most eloquent solution, I agree.
But, when you’re in a pinch, it does the job.

To enter or exit fullscreen mode, use the keystroke Shift + Command + F.
Hold down Shift and Command (The button with the Apple symbol) and press F.

Also… You may find that when you exit fullscreen mode, the menubar seems to start hiding again after a few minutes.
This may be because multiple documents or instances of a program are open (like multiple documents being open in Word).  Because of another feature of OS X Lion, each of these documents or instances is independently set to fullscreen mode.
So when we looked at one of these already-opened documents, it can throw us back into fullscreen mode.  How silly!

The reason that you may have so many Word documents open – and the reason that, when you open a word document from your email, you may find that Word opens four other old documents with it – is another Mac OS X Lion feature, called Application Resume.

This well-intended feature remembers, for example, the last documents that were opened when you quit Word, and shows them again whenever you re-open Word.
It also remembers if you were in fullscreen mode, and reinstates that mode.

Unfortunately, this is not always convenient.
(I would argue that it’s more of a nuisance than a help).
So, you may find it easier to disable this resume feature in Lion.

To read more about this – and to learn how to “Disable Resume For All Applications”, if you want to do this on your own – have a look at the following article.

Note: It should be said, that the menu bar never really disappears; it’s just hidden.  If you bring your mouse to the top of the screen, you will always find the menu bar.

The Disappearing Menubar in Mac OS X Lion
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