What's on Peter's Mac menu bar right now!

What's on Peter's Mac menu right now?

The permanent residents of my Mac's menu bar, and why they're important to me

We've told you about what's on our iPads and Macs before, explaining our choices in apps, desktop wallpaper and more. It's my turn again so I thought I'd share with you the contents of my Mac's menu bar. I've customized the bar with a bunch of applications and tools that I think are indispensable.

I'll skip most of the basic Apple stuff like Date & Time, the system's standard battery gauge, volume level and Bluetooth. I assume you're familiar with them and know what they do. You will notice, however, that Time Machine is active. I feel very strongly that Time Machine is the best way to make sure you can easily recover from a major problem and strongly advocate that you use it by whatever means you prefer - external hard drive, Time Capsule or compatible NAS system.

  • iStat Menus: One of my favorite system add-ons, usually one of the first tools I'll install on any new Macintosh. iStat Menus lets me visualize CPU and network traffic, memory status, disk usage, battery life and even temperature and voltage readings with a single click. $16 - Download now

  • Creative Cloud : I was skeptical at first about paying for software as as service, but Creative Cloud has changed the way I use Adobe products. They're frequently updated with new features, and it's an impressive range of features across the different apps, most of which I underutilize, if I use at all. I mainly stick to Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom and Acrobat Pro. $49.99 per month - Download now

  • TextExpander: Smile Software's typing shortcut utility is a godsend for anyone who writes or has to input repetitive data on their computers. We use it to add snippets of information and links to pages quickly and easily when we're writing the content you read on iMore. (Buy it from Smile's web site — the Mac App Store version is crippled thanks to Apple's sandboxing requirements.) $34.95 - Download now

  • Airspace: The control software for the Leap Motion Controller. The Leap Motion Controller lets you gesture in space rather than using a trackpad or mouse; it's a bit like having a Kinect on your Mac. Terrific fun, and loads of games designed to support it. Airspace acts as a portal to the Airspace Store, where you can download new Leap Motion Controller-optimized apps. $79.99 - Buy now

  • Crashplan: While I depend on Time Machine for regular backups, that's not where my backup strategy ends. Having offsite backup is important if a catastrophe occurs. I can't rotate out Time Machines on a regular basis, so I've retained the services of CrashPlan instead. This service enables me to back up every Mac on my home network, including the ones used by my wife and kids. It's my second line of defense. Family plan: $149.99 - Download now

  • gfxCardStatus: I use a Retina MacBook Pro, which has both integrated video and a discrete video system for higher-power work like image editing and gaming. This handy little passive tool shows me at a glance if the energy-saving integrated video mode is on, or if the more battery-hungry discrete graphics system is being used. What's more, I can use it to force the integrated video on; it slows down graphics-intensive apps but helps my battery live a bit longer between charges. Donationware - Download Now

  • Dropbox: The popular cloud storage service is vital to us at iMore - we use it for common files we use throughout our work, templates, source art and more. What's more, I use it to share files I need to get to other people - it's as simple as moving a file into my Dropbox folder and control-clicking it to get a link I can drop in an e-mail or share via social media. Free - Download now

  • SugarSync: Dropbox is great for shared repositories, but those files need to live in the Dropbox folder. SugarSync helps me synchronize the rest of my files. My Documents folder contains dozens of subfolders I use for various work and personal files - my archive of iMore articles, for example, receipts, stuff I've written for other publications and much more. Those are files I want instant access to regardless of what Mac I'm using - SugarSync makes it happen seamlessly. $7.49 per month - Download now

  • Flint: Campfire is an essential communication tool for the iMore staff - it's our editorial bullpen, for all intents and purposes. Flint is an excellent Campfire client that lets me know at a glance if there's anything going on that I need to pay attention to. It maintains transcripts and can also ping me with a Notification Center alert if messages containing any words (like my name) are posted. $7.99 - Download now

  • Echofon: My favorite Twitter client for the Mac. Syncs between its OS X and iOS counterparts, so I don't have to read the same tweets twice. Clean interface, fast, and well supported. $9.99 - Download now

  • Fantastical: Flexibits' calendaring app provides me with an instant view of my upcoming appointments along with reminders, and lets me enter new items in my calendar using natural language parsing. It's a great replacement for Apple's own Calendar app. $19.99 - Download now

  • Skype: I have to admit that I'm not the most enthusiastic Skype user. But Skype is an essential business tool. I used it to talk with other iMore folks, I use it to interview people, I use it to get in touch with friends and colleagues. The big advantage to Skype is that it's multiplatform - something that despite Apple's initial promises, FaceTime is not. Free - Download now

That's it! Those are all my menu items. See any common tools that you rely on? What other menu tools do you find completely necessary? Sound off in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

What's on Peter's Mac menu bar right now!

30 Comments

Better you than me. :-) Being a bit OCD, that would drive me absolutely INSANE having all that junk in the top bar.

A lot of it seems to be for "monitoring" purposes, maybe you should chill out a bit and just "let stuff happen" instead? Might be less stressful.

I agree with Gazoobee, I would absolutely die seeing all that in the top bar. I personally like at least the feeling of less clutter even if I know I have a crap ton of settings running in the background. I only have Dropbox, avast!, NoSleep and Degrees shown in the top menu bar, but mainly just to assure me that they are running (especially NoSleep if I accidentally close my MacBook before iTunes Match populates, or if I press send on email but close my laptop in a haste to class, as is typical with many college students, I know it will still send as long as I'm connected to a network.)

But nice list! :-)

I use a great little utility called Bartender which can group as many of your menu bar icons under one icon that you then click to get another smaller menu bar underneath it. I live it and it is super configurable-you determine which menu bar icons go into the bartender bar and which remain in the main menu bar including system menu bar items. You can also choose to have any of the menu bar icons automatically move from the bartender bar to the main menu bar when the are active such as Dropbox doing a sync and then it will return to the bartender bar.

Motion seconded regarding Bartender. There are a lot of great apps that want a chunk of menubar space, but don't really need to be around often or at all. Bartender makes it a snap to configure whether any app's icon is shown 1) on the main menu bar, 2) hidden away in a "sub menubar" accessible by clicking on Bartender's icon, or 3) not shown at all, even if the app in question doesn't have a built-in option for hiding its icon.

Now the only icons on my menubar are those that I access regularly or provide useful visual information. Everything else uses one of the hiding options to keep the menubar a bit more tidy.

[Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Bartender's makers, just a very satisfied customer. -J]

Great list Peter.. I tried Crashplan.. I liked it fundamentally, but between my Dropbox and Time Machine; I thought adding Crashplan was overkill for me.. Plus I'm concerned with having to many 'internet of things' reaching out and killing battery while on the move.. though I think Crashplan lets you stop backups if on battery? Can't remember.

I know these don't live on the menu bar, or even on the Dock, they are silent runners that assist with productivity and backups... Not sure if iMore has covered some silent running tools for OS X..

TimeMachineScheduler: Hourly TM backups can be overkill with Time Machine. TimeMachineScheduler lets you schedule Time Machine for daily or weekly backups.. It even lets you define if backups can happen only on LAN or WiFI or both. Very nice, especially since when on a LAN you're likely plugged in and on WiFI you tend to be on battery and don't want Time Machine killing your battery doing backups.

XtraFinder: I love this one.. lets you customize your Finder Window. Give Finder Tabs a Chrome tab look, Automatically adjust width of column names, hide dot files on desktop, allow for true cut & paste, add more options to the right context menu such as open a terminal window or create new files.

TinkerTool: A must for those that want to customize finder, dock, desktop and other hidden features of OS X!

Space Monkey! When they deliver the Kickstarter version to Europe that is.. :)
I have Skitch in there too. And because of it I started using Evernote too. Quite handy I must admit.

Great list Peter. Do you use the Leap Motion for non- gamer stuff? (Browsing the web / presentation slides and such)

I'm kind of hoping iMore is going to review Space Monkey.
49 USD / Year for 1 TB (1000 GB) after purchasing the drive for 199
It may be an alternative for your Crashplan / Sugarsync combo solution Peter.

Talking about backup solutions: I wonder why one can't backup an iPad to a Time Capsule (without using a Mac)?

Use most of the same stuff, except SugarSync and Crashplan (my backup consists of TimeMachine to TimeCapsule, a weekly CCC clone to an external disk, and all data going to our corporate server via ChronoSync in addition). No need for Airspace or Flint.

In addition I use Bartender (a great utility to hide menu bar icons in a tray), Yoink (a little tool that helps to drag content across screens and spaces), Living Earth (weather and world time), Clips (a multi-clipboard tool). I also have OmniPresence (to make docs from various Omnigroup apps available across Macs and iOS devices), Transmit (FTP and WebDAV), ChronoSync and AirServer in the menu bar. I did replace the standard clock and battery display with the ones provided by iStat Menus. (All on the 15" Retina MBP.)

You guys should consider moving away from Campfire and use Hipchat instead. Hipchat not only has group chat, but also one-on-one chat, and one-on-one video and screen sharing.

Well I don't know where to begin I'am a complete newbie I just got my very first "15 Mac book pro on friday. Ive always used windows because thats what was around me but curiosity and this site has got me interested. Im making my way around but there is definitely a learning curve. Thanks for your great articles and podcasts it helps newbies like me. I can use all the tips and tricks you guys got.

TextExpander used to be a favorite, but $34.95 is pretty expensive. Nowadays I'm using the excellent aText, which brings you all the coolness & functionality of TE but costs just $5. Has a very responsive developer too.

Another favorite: Boom, a $7 utility that radically improves the sound (& volume) of the Mac (desktops and laptops).

A more recent addition is Minbox, a tool that lets you send big (as in: GB's) files to whoever needs them. Kindalike Dropbox on steroids. Fast, Free and a joy to use.

Also: for anyone who travels or for anyone who wants to see stuff that is 'not available' for your country, there's Cloak. Cloak is VPN software that automatically secures your internet activities whenever you're not on your own network. Essential if you do a lot of work on public wifi-services. Very easy to use, and very reasonably priced.

FreeSpace, a $1 app that shows the hard disk space available on the bar. Dead simple. Just works. Can see multiple drives at the same time. I am a video editor so its very handy. It even pops notification when I eject my drive. Don't know why Apple missed this important feature at the first place.

Well, first of all it depends on what kind of solution you need. BitTorrent Sync does not store anything in the cloud, so it is no solution for mobile access and to overcome storage limitations.

All the talk about encryption is great (as far as it raises awareness), but as long as truly safe encryption technology is not an integral part of any mainstream OS, it is a pipe dream for most regular users. Can I open an encrypted file in any mobile app? Does any OS come with built in support for at least encrypted email and cloud storage? How user-friendly are available commercial and open encryption packages, and, even worse, how long does it take for them to be updated after an OS update? Answer 1: they are as convoluted and cryptic as possible. Answer 2: using a solution like Open PGP I would sometimes have no access at all to my email for months after an OS update. As long as the major OS makers (MS, Apple and Google) do not step up and make such a technology standard, it will not be available / usable for 99%+ of users out there. How people who choose "secret" or "1234" as their password would be better at protecting their private keys... I can't see.

Any solution is not "infected" or per se bad, because governments worldwide abuse it, the same agencies where opening letters and tapping phone lines for decades. That did not stop anybody from using these means.

I use a date/time replacement called Day-O that gives me a small drop-down calendar and allows me to more closely display what I want to see. It does not have iCal or other calendar information, but if you ever need to determine something like "what is the 2nd Thursday of the month" this is handy. shauninman.com search for Day-O