How To: Or­gan­ise your Mac’s menu bar

The menu bar is handy for quick ac­cess to apps and sys­tem pref­er­ences, but it can get crowded, writes

Macworld - - News - Kirk McEl­hearn

Your Mac’s menu bar is a use­ful tool. It dis­plays ‘menu bar ex­tras’, lit­tle icons that give you sta­tus in­for­ma­tion about your Mac, or that of­fer quick-ac­cess menus to cer­tain set­tings. For ex­am­ple, you can click the Wi-Fi icon to turn

Wi-Fi on or off, or to se­lect a Wi-Fi net­work. You can click the User icon to go to the lo­gin win­dow, or to se­lect a dif­fer­ent user and switch to their ac­count. Or you can click the key­board icon to change in­put meth­ods, if you work with dif­fer­ent key­board lay­outs.

It’s not just OS X that puts menu ex­tras at the top of your dis­play; third-party apps do as well. Some of­fer sim­i­lar fea­tures, such as ac­cess to oft-used func­tions, and oth­ers can pro­vide sta­tus in­for­ma­tion. But all this comes at a price: clut­ter. If you have a Mac with a large dis­play, then you prob­a­bly don’t worry about how many icons are in your menu bar, though they can give you sen­sory over­load. But if you have a lap­top, you may find that not all of your menu bar ex­tras dis­play when an ap­pli­ca­tion you run has a lot of menus of its own. App menus get pri­or­ity, and if you’re work­ing with an app with lots of menus, some of your menu bar ex­tras sim­ply dis­ap­pear.

Be­low is the menu bar on a 27in iMac. From left to right it in­cludes: Drop­box, Air­foil Satel­lite, TypeIt4Me, BusyCal, BitTor­rent Sync, HazeOver, Moom, f.lux, Ever­note, Plex, then a group of sta­tus menu bar ex­tras from iS­tat Menus. Next come sys­tem menu bar ex­tras: Mes­sages, Wi-Fi, Eject, Time Ma­chine, Vol­ume, Blue­tooth, In­put, User, Spot­light, No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter.

That’s a lot of stuff.

Menu bar ex­tras are in two groups: third-party items at the left, sys­tem items at the right. You can change the po­si­tion of any third-party menu bar ex­tra by press­ing the Cmd key, click­ing it, and drag­ging it to a new lo­ca­tion. (And you’ll be able to do this with third-party ex­tras in macOS Sierra.) For sys­tem items, press the Cmd key and drag a menu bar ex­tra away from the menu bar to re­move it. For third-party items, you’ll need to check the apps that added the menu bar ex­tras. Many of them can be re­moved, usu­ally from a check box in the pref­er­ences or set­tings. How­ever, some apps don’t let you do this; there would be no other way of ac­cess­ing set­tings or fea­tures. For ex­am­ple, while Drop­box of­fers ac­cess to set­tings from its app, there’s no way to pause or re­sume sync, or to see what’s sync­ing with­out the menu bar ex­tra.

Bar­tender (macbar­tender.com) can solve this prob­lem. It al­lows you to re­or­gan­ise all your menu bar ex­tras, cre­at­ing a sec­ond bar that only dis­plays on de­mand. You can also re­ar­range all the menu bar ex­tras with Bar­tender, whether they’re part of OS X or come from third-party apps. For third-party menu bar ex­tras, as we said above, each app has a set­ting, and you may add or re­move some of these. To add sys­tem items, you need to go into Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. For ex­am­ple, the Wi-Fi menu bar ex­tra set­ting is in the Net­work pane; the User ex­tra set­ting is in Users & Groups;

the Vol­ume set­ting is in Sound; and so on. There are some other menu bar ex­tras you can add, but only if you know where they’re hid­ing. If you go to /Sys­tem/Li­brary/CoreSer­vices/Menu Ex­tras you’ll find two dozen items you can add to your menu bar. Dou­ble-click any of these to add them to your menu bar.

Some of these are avail­able from Sys­tem Pref­er­ences, but not all. For ex­am­ple, we use the Eject menu ex­tra to be able to eject discs from my op­ti­cal drive; and if you like to use Ap­pleScripts, you may want to add the Scripts menu ex­tra.

Menu bar ex­tras are use­ful, but only if you don’t get over­whelmed. Tak­ing con­trol of your menu bar can make you more ef­fi­cient, and save you time.

The menu bar on my 27in iMac

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