I’ll admit to being a little addicted to putting apps in my Mac’s Menu Bar. I went through a spell where I stuck every cool little gadget up there I possibly could, but finally got to paring down to only the most useful. Nearly all of these help with productivity or enhance day-to-day computer usage in some way.
Here’s what’s in my Menu Bar from left to right.
- Calibre – I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but Calibre is my go-to app for converting eBooks from one file format to another. Some people use it to organize their eBook library, and it does have that function, but I find it too clunky to use that way. Calibre is available for OS X, Windows, and Linux.
- Twitter – Do I really need to explain Twitter? I tweet, I read tweets, we communicate in word bites. Done.
- Skitch – Skitch is the most capable “little” image editing program there is for the Macintosh. Period. It doesn’t have the capabilities of Photoshop, but when I need to quickly convert an image to a different file type, crop or resize, or annotate an image, it’s my go-to app. It’s also the fastest way to grab a screenshot, whether you want a small bit of what’s onscreen, or a fullscreen snapshot. You can also use it to save images in the cloud and share them with others, or even link to them on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook posts. Evernote bought them out not too long ago, so you can link your Skitch album to your Evernote account and save images directly to your Evernote notebooks. (By the way, I used Skitch to capture the menu bar image above.)
- MenuTab for Facebook – This is a neat little app that alerts me when I get likes or comments on my FB wall or any of my Pages. I can quickly see the comment, post a response, and get back to work without loading FB into my browser.
- Evernote – If you don’t know about this app, you’re really missing out. The Evernote folks aren’t kidding when they say, “Remember everything.” There’s pretty much nothing you can’t save to Evernote. Write yourself plaintext notes and save them, save whole webpages—even converting them to PDFs on the fly, save images, save everything. Like Skitch, it’s all in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. You can log in via your browser, the dedicated application, or even their smartphone/tablet app.
- Dropbox – I talked about Dropbox here, so rather than repeat myself, I encourage you to go read if you’re wondering what Dropbox is all about. Long story short, it’s a great online backup service that gives you 2 GB of space for free, and has very affordable subscription rates if you need more space. If you’re not backing up your important files, you’re setting yourself up to lose them forever.
- Gmail Notifier – This one’s simple. This little notifier sits in my menu bar and quietly checks my email status every few minutes. When something new hits my inbox, it turns red and gives me a cheery little beep. No more checking my email every 10 minutes to see what’s new. Now, I ignore the inbox unless alerted.
- Bowtie – This is pretty much the only frivolous app in my menu bar. Bowtie works with iTunes, placing a nice little graphic on my desktop showing me the currently playing song, the artist, the album cover art, etc. There are loads of user-created skins you can download to better fit your desktop’s style.
- Alfred – Oh, how I wish I’d started using Alfred sooner. Alfred is hands down (in my opinion) the best launcher on the Mac OS. It works similarly to Apple’s Spotlight, indexing the contents of your computer so you can access them more quickly. You setup a simple key combo to launch the app—in my case Option+Spacebar—and a little bezel pops up. You start typing the name of what you’re looking for, and Alfred brings up a drop-down menu of potential apps and files. For instance, when I want to launch Scrivener, I hit my key combo, type an s and a c, and Alfred brings up the list of possibilities. It’s smart and prioritizes applications at the top of the list, and also learns your habits. If you have more than one app that starts with the same letters, it pays attention to see which one you launch most often and moves it to the top of the list. In most cases, you can hit your key combo, type one or two letters then hit enter. It may sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite a bit faster than moving your hand to your mouse, finding the appropriate icon in your Dock and clicking it.
- FreeMemory – This little app sits in my menu bar out of necessity. Safari works better on my Mac than any other browser, and I prefer the interface over Firefox and Chrome. (Not to mention that Chrome runs like a bloated pig on my computers. Opps, I just mentioned it…) The problem is that Safari has a VERY significant memory leak, slowly allocating more an more RAM to itself the longer it’s running. The simple solution is to just quit Safari and relaunch, but sometimes that’s not practical. Free Memory keeps track of how much RAM is being used up, then forces the OS to free up that RAM when you hit a predetermined limit.
- Flycut – Flycut is a clipboard manager. What’s the clipboard you ask? It’s that little space in your computer’s memory where the last thing you copied (to paste elsewhere) is stored. Computers only remember the last item you copied. Flycut lets you store a predetermined number of items to allow you to paste them again and again. I’ve got my Flycut set to remember the last 40 items I copied, and the app displays the last 10 in a drop down menu for me. When I want to paste an item I copied several copies ago, I just choose that item from the menu and it’s pasted wherever my cursor might be. Flycut also syncs with Dropbox, so if the power goes out, you still have access to the things you copied before the outage.
- Droplr – This is my app of choice when I want to quickly share files with others. Honestly, this is a choice of preference. It just fits my workflow better than the common alternatives like email attachments, or a shared Dropbox folder. I like that Droplr shows me how many times the shared item has been accessed right there in the menu bar’s drop down menu.
- CPU LED – This one’s there as a bow to my geek nature. It really doesn’t help me get anything done, but I like knowing the load status of my CPU and RAM. That’s it. That’s all it does.
- Caffeine – This app allows you to keep your Mac from going to sleep, dimming the screen, or starting screen savers without delving into your system preferences and tweaking your settings. Want to watch a movie on Netflix and not worry about the screen saver interrupting? One click and you’re good to go.
There you go. I’d encourage you to try these apps out and see if they help you be more productive, or make using your Mac a more enjoyable experience.
What are your favorite Mac menu bar apps? Please let me know in the comments.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.