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
- 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- MenuPrefs (outdated, but works) – Gives you menu bar access to various panes in System Preferences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 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.
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.
— Guillermo Rauch (@rauchg) May 11, 2016
For Saving Clipboard Entries – CopyClip
You can give your workflow a leg up 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're not using CopyClip – Clipboard History Manager you're missing out! https://t.co/Az5kwDlEwd
— Caleb Peavy (@calebpeavy) March 22, 2016
If you use the Quicksilver launcher to navigate your Mac, 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 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.
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 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.
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.
You’re sure to find Battery Helper’s Tips section useful. It tells you how to calibrate your Mac’s battery every few months in order to improve runtimes and also lists several ways in which you can boost battery life.
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.
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.
— MakeUseOf (@MakeUseOf) August 5, 2013
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.
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. 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.
Now I can close my Mac’s lid without stopping the apps from doing their work ? #InsomniaX
— DJ RB Banaag (@_DJRB) March 23, 2016
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.
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 from time to time, you’ll do just fine.
What’s in your Mac menu bar? Tell us about it in the comments.