My Menubar: Bartender

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Date: Monday, February 3rd, 2014, 08:07
Category: Apple, Apps, Mac, Mavericks, Review, Software, Software

Have you ever caught a glimpse of another user’s Mac and wondered what that one (or more), unrecognized icon in their menubar was for? I’d like to introduce a new segment where we explore just that, interesting tools or application extensions that live in your menubar. It’s part review and part demystification, where we introduce some new programs as well as buried OS X system menu items you may not have seen before. If you want to know why I think this might be an interesting software niche to explore, check out my current menubar;

menubar_sample

 

How many of those can you recognize? I’m sure there are a few, like the Wi-Fi icon and Spotlight, and hopefully we’ll clue you in on the rest eventually. There’s even a few that I don’t have running at the moment. As you can imagine, before I upgraded to a 27″ iMac, I had a few problems managing this many menubar items without running into some issues. Most frequent was when an app had enough menus to collide with the growing number of little icons encroaching from the right side of the screen. This would either result in the app’s menus being obscured, or the menubar items on the left end disappearing making them inaccessible. What’s a menubar item hoarder to do?!

bartender

Enter Bartender, the only effective menubar app manager I’ve discovered. The Bartender icon (you have several to choose from) resides in your menubar, providing a drop-down submenu that can hold as many menubar items as you like or all of them, with only Bartender’s icon showing, for a completely distraction-free menubar. It actually looks a little like my menubar image above, that I had to double up to fit in the post, except that Bartender has a gear icon at the end for accessing preferences. This is ideal for those items you want to have running and handy, but don’t use that frequently. For example, the second icon on the top row above is the AirPlay controller for my Mac. I sometimes mirror my Mac to my television through the Apple TV, but not very often, so down into Bartender’s submenu it goes where it is out of the way until I need it. Perhaps you have this dilemma…you don’t really need to access the Dropbox menu very often, but you like the ability to see when it is updating. Similarly, the Time Machine menu item doesn’t do much, but it does change to indicate a backup is going on in the background. If you are working on something important and you don’t want Time Machine slowing things down, it’s useful to see this change so you can postpone the backup. Bartender has you covered! You can set icons to move from Bartender’s submenu to the visible menubar only when it’s doing something. So, when Dropbox is updating, or Time Machine starts up, the icon moves up to where it’s visible, and then when it stops, it moves back down into the submenu again. Pretty slick, eh? You can also have Bartender hide an item from both menus, effectively making it invisible, but I haven’t run across a reason to do that, unless you have so many that it overflows the submenu too. Perhaps there are some items that have to live in the menubar to work, but you have no reason to ever click on it. There are also a few other options you can adjust to determine how Bartender behaves. It even supports Mavericks’ multi-monitor feature so you can have Bartender running on all your screens.

While I haven’t been running Bartender on the iMac since I got the 27″ model, it is absolutely essential on my 11″ MacBook Air. You can download Bartender from their web site and run it in demo mode for four weeks to try it out, and if you agree that it an invaluable app, it’s only $15 to buy it. Ok, that may seem a ‘little’ expensive for an app that seems to do one thing, albeit very well, but if you need that space, and don’t want to give up any of your menubar apps, I think you’ll find it’s totally worth it.

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