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Most of us glance at the Mac menu bar for the date and time, but with a few apps it can do much more — like handling email, keeping your Mac awake, and protecting your eyes for starters.

Make the most of your desktop by prepping the menu bar with the right selection of apps. We’ve listed some of the best free and paid ones for you here.

Popular Apps That We Have Already Covered

Before we get to today’s list of menu bar apps, let’s take a quick look at some of the popular ones that you probably know about and use already.

  • F.lux – Reduces eye strain by optimizing your Mac’s display to match the time of the day
  • Caffeine and Amphetamine – Prevent your Mac from dimming the screen or going to sleep

oxs-amphetamine

  • XMenu – Allows you to browse applications and folders from the menu bar
  • MenuPrefs (outdated, but works) – Gives you menu bar access to various panes in System Preferences
  • Itsycal – A calendar app

For Dealing with Email – Go for Gmail

If you’re on the lookout for a Mac client for Gmail Kiwi is Basically Gmail for Mac Kiwi is Basically Gmail for Mac Gmail offers native apps on Android and iOS, both of which blend with their operating systems. Why shouldn't the far more powerful desktop operating systems get the same treatment? Read More , Kiwi is your best bet. The problem is that it’s a full-fledged desktop app that takes up space in the dock. Not ideal if you need the app open all the time, right? Well, if you want a Gmail interface that stays out of your way while still being super-accessible, try Go for Gmail.

It puts your Gmail account inside a popup panel that you can bring up from the menu bar or via a hotkey. You can resize the app panel, drag it around, and place it anywhere you like on the screen.

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mac-go-for-gmail

If you want to set Go for Gmail to launch at login or change the hotkey for toggling the panel, you can do so via the app settings. You’ll also find a few options to customize notifications and the appearance of the panel. You know what else would have been cool? A way to dock the panel to the menu bar or to the edge of the screen when in use.

Alternative: MailTab for Gmail

If you think recreating Gmail in a popup is overkill, try Mia for Gmail. It displays your Gmail messages in an easy-to-scan dropdown list and allows you to read and compose email without leaving your desktop.

For Saving Clipboard Entries – CopyClip

You can give your workflow a leg up Ditch The Dock To Speed Up Your Mac Workflow Ditch The Dock To Speed Up Your Mac Workflow While the dock can't be entirely eliminated, there are many powerful alternatives that can reduce your dependence on using the dock as an app launcher. Read More by logging your clipboard entries throughout the day, and CopyClip lets you do that on OS X. CopyClip is a clipboard manager, meaning it stores anything that you have cut or copied in the past while using your Mac. It hides all your used snippets in a dropdown menu accessible from the menu bar. Now anytime you want to paste a snippet you copied a while ago, it’s just a couple of clicks or keyboard shortcuts away.

If you use the Quicksilver launcher to navigate your Mac Remember Quicksilver, The Free Open Source Mac Launcher? Remember Quicksilver, The Free Open Source Mac Launcher? You've probably forgotten entirely about Quicksilver, and that's too bad. It's awesome. Read More , you can get a clipboard management functionality with Clipboard Plugin, which you’ll find in Quicksilver’s plugin repository. If you’re an Alfred user, you’ll need a Powerpack license to activate the clipboard history feature. If you prefer a free, menu-bar-based option, CopyClip is just what you need.

For Tracking Time Zones – Clocker

Figuring out ideal meeting times when you work with people across the globe Team Working: 10 Tips For Effective Real-Time Online Collaboration Team Working: 10 Tips For Effective Real-Time Online Collaboration Read More  is a nightmare, because it’s not easy to calculate time differences in your head or make sense of them. We recommend that you sit back and let an applet like Clocker do the math for you. It’s clean, simple, and open source.

The app adds a clock icon to your menu bar, and you can click on it to see the current time at your location and at the other locations you want to keep track of. To work out what time it will be in another time zone, simply click and drag the slider at the bottom of the panel to advance time — making it easy to schedule meetings, blog posts, status updates, or make sure you don’t miss international sporting events.

osc-clocker-app

Alternative: Clocks ($2.99)

If you want a menu bar world clock app that goes beyond time display, try The Clock, made by the developer behind Barsoom, a popular Mac app The Best Mac Apps of 2015 (And Our Favorite Updates) The Best Mac Apps of 2015 (And Our Favorite Updates) Brilliant calendar apps, feature-rich Twitter apps, a whole new Office experience, and a sassy way to find out the weather, were just some of the best OS X apps released or updated this year. Read More for cleaning up the menu bar. The Clock includes a meeting planner and a calendar, and comes with a 14-day trial.

For Ejecting Media – Ejector

Being able to eject USB drives and other media from the system tray on Windows is quite convenient. If you wish Mac had a similar setup, you can get one easily with Ejector. It sits in the menu bar and gives you a list of all USB drives, .DMGs, and mounted volumes that are active on your Mac in a dropdown list. Click on any listed device to eject it for safe removal.

osx-ejector-applet

The developers of Ejector haven’t updated it in quite some time, so you might want to stay prepared for a glitch or two — though I must say that Ejector has always worked quite smoothly for me.

For Monitoring Battery Status – Battery Health

Every OS X installation needs Battery Health (or one of its alternatives). It gives you an overview of the condition of your Mac’s battery. In the applet’s dropdown menu, you’ll see information about the battery’s age, temperature, standby time, the number of charge cycles it has gone through, and its current health status. Based on your current Mac usage, the applet also shows how long the existing charge will last.

osx-battery-health-applet

You’re sure to find Battery Helper’s Tips section useful. It tells you how to calibrate your Mac’s battery Calibrate & Maintain Your MacBook Battery For Best Performance Calibrate & Maintain Your MacBook Battery For Best Performance If you correctly calibrate and maintain your MacBook battery, it's possible to improve performance and put off replacing it for as long as possible. Read More every few months in order to improve runtimes and also lists several ways in which you can boost battery life.

Alternative: coconutBattery

For Boosting Battery Life – Endurance

We know how frustrating it can be when your Mac runs out of juice just as you’re about to wrap up work and there’s no power outlet in sight. No way you can send that important email or upload those documents now. Right? Right, unless you have installed Endurance beforehand.

When your Mac’s battery level drops below a certain preset, the app automatically tweaks a few settings here, turns off a few features there and provides you with about 20% more battery — just enough to finish what you were doing and save your work.

osx-endurance-applet

For Taking Screenshots – PopShot

Taking and sharing screenshots can be a frustrating experience if you’re using a half-baked tool to do it. PopShot is not one of those. It’s a pay-what-you-want app that simplifies screen capture and even lets you do it right from the menu bar.

With PopShot, you can specify capture settings before you take a screenshot. The app saves screenshot info to your clipboard (and across app sessions!) for easy sharing.

Alternative: Screenie ($9.99), which is based on the now-defunct Quickshot

For Disabling Sleep Mode – InsomniaX

Wish you could close the lid on your Mac without disrupting downloads or music that’s playing? InsomniaX is for you! It disables Apple’s sleep mode, allowing you to keep your Mac going even with its lid closed Use Your Old Mac as a Server or NAS Drive — Here's How Use Your Old Mac as a Server or NAS Drive — Here's How If you haven't yet sorted out some network-attached storage, you might want to think about using your old Mac as a jumped-up fileserver. Read More . In the interest of protecting your Mac’s battery, we recommend using InsomniaX only as and when you need it instead of keeping it enabled it all the time.

For Changing Display Resolutions – QuickRes

QuickRes is great for switching back and forth between various screen resolutions on the fly without leaving the current app. That’s especially handy when you work with multiple monitors.

osx-quickres-applet

Alternative: Display Menu

What’s on the Menu Bar?

Menu bar apps save you the trouble of having to switch to your favorite apps every time you need them. Now your most used functions are just a drop-down or popup menu away, not to mention accessible in a couple of clicks.

Of course, with so many applets to choose from, it’s easy to go overboard and fill up the menu bar, making it messy and distracting. But as long as you tidy your Mac menu bar How To Customize & Tidy Your Mac Menu Bar How To Customize & Tidy Your Mac Menu Bar Nothing makes OS X look cluttered faster than unwanted menubar icons. Read More from time to time, you’ll do just fine.

What’s in your Mac menu bar? Tell us about it in the comments.

  1. Adam Brown (simplecreatures)
    May 27, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I use Day-O in my menu bar. Just a tiny little calendar, with no bells & whistles - it is excellent.
    It hasn't been updated in years, but does exactly what I need.

    http://shauninman.com/archive/2011/10/20/day_o_mac_menu_bar_clock

  2. Philly
    May 25, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Cookie (https://sweetpproductions.com) is not really a standalone menu bar application, but you can change the settings to have the icon in the menu bar instead of the dock. it's a must have if you care about online privacy, it's easy to set up and does a perfect job imo

    Little Snitch is also a great menu bar tool !

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 26, 2016 at 3:18 am

      Little Snitch is great. Hadn't heard of Cookie. I'll give it a shot. Thanks!

      • Philly
        May 26, 2016 at 9:47 pm

        You're welcome!

  3. Fischi
    May 25, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    TextBar - Place your own scripts and their output in the Menubar - would never missing that
    http://www.richsomerfield.com/apps/
    Much more better than CopyClip nearly the best: old but still works with El Captain ClipMenu http://www.clipmenu.com
    PopClip - PopClip appears when you select text with your mouse on your Mac
    https://pilotmoon.com/popclip/
    aText - a low Budget but very smooth working accelerator
    https://www.trankynam.com/atext/
    Bettertouchtool
    https://www.boastr.net

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 26, 2016 at 3:16 am

      All great tools. Thanks for bringing them up. I hadn't heard of TextBar though.

    • Philly
      May 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Definitely gonna check out TextBar, sounds just like what I was looking for. Thanks!

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