Power up your menu bar

Add loads of handy wid­gets to your Mac’s menu bar with BitBar

Mac Format - - CONTENTS - Craig Gran­nell

Add wid­gets for any info you need at a glance

BitBar en­ables you to add ex­tra items to the menu bar to track info and per­form sim­ple tasks

it will take

15 min­utes

you will learn

How to in­stall and con­fig­ure BitBar, add plug-ins to it, and how to tai­lor their out­put.

You’ll need

BitBar. A plain text ed­i­tor.

The lofty claim made by BitBar is that you can use it to put any­thing in the menu bar.

Be­fore your imag­i­na­tion runs amok, what this refers to is in­stalling scripts that out­put to the menu bar. So, along­side the clock and your Mac’s Wi-Fi sta­tus, you can add ad­di­tional wid­gets to track im­por­tant info and quickly per­form ba­sic sys­tem tasks.

In our walk­through, we show you how to get started with BitBar, and run through a few of the plug-ins we’ve found use­ful: an iTunes track rater; a Clip­board his­tory; a Po­modoro timer (for track­ing work/break cy­cles); and dis­plays for cur­rently play­ing mu­sic and cur­rency rates. How­ever, those are just our favourites, and we en­cour­age you to ex­plore BitBar’s web­site (get­bit­bar.com) for other plug‑ins to suit your own setup. Ex­am­ples you might find use­ful in­clude band­width testers, sports scores, an amus­ingly mor­bid ‘death timer’, and even a plug-in that en­ables you to in­stall ad­di­tional BitBar plug-ins right from the menu bar!

How­ever, we’ve gone res­o­lutely man­ual in this tu­to­rial, so you can get to grips with BitBar and how it works. In part, this is be­cause the app is very much the brain­child of script­ing peo­ple. It’s there­fore lack­ing some of the el­e­gance usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with Mac util­i­ties. A few plug-ins we tried didn’t work at all. Oth­ers had strange de­fault set­ups, but didn’t have a set­tings win­dow for chang­ing them.

Tai­lored to fit your needs

For­tu­nately, BitBar makes it pos­si­ble to deal with such is­sues, if you’re will­ing to get your hands a bit dirty. For any plug-in you find needs a tweak, you can open its script in a plain text ed­i­tor – for a cou­ple of the ex­am­ples op­po­site, we’ve used BBEdit (bare­bones.com), which has a free trial ver­sion that sim­ply dis­ables some fea­tures af­ter 30 days.

Else­where, if some­thing doesn’t re­ally work at all, just open BitBar’s plug-ins folder, drag the of­fend­ing item to the Trash, and re­fresh BitBar by se­lect­ing ‘Re­fresh all’ from the Pref­er­ences menu of any in­stalled plug-in.

Although this is more ef­fort than some util­i­ties we cover, BitBar’s ex­ten­si­bil­ity and use­ful­ness make it worth that lit­tle bit of ex­tra has­sle. And if you get re­ally into BitBar and also fancy your­self a dab hand at script­ing, you can al­ways write your own plug-ins, as out­lined at github.com/ma­tryer/bitbar.

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