What's on Peter's Mac menu bar 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