Power up your menu bar
Add loads of handy widgets to your Mac’s menu bar with BitBar
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
you will learn
How to install and configure BitBar, add plug-ins to it, and how to tailor their output.
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.