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Part of the appeal of using a Mac is how great everything looks, but nothing makes OS X look cluttered faster than menubar icons. These show up in the top-left corner, and for some reason Apple offers no real way of managing them by default.

El Capitan is bad news for many Mac customizations El Capitan Means The End Of Mac Themes & Deep System Tweaks El Capitan Means The End Of Mac Themes & Deep System Tweaks If you like customizing your Mac, Yosemite might be the last version of OS X that works for you. And that's too bad. Read More , but anyone who likes reducing clutter on the menubar is still in pretty good shape.

Here are a few tools and tips for menubar management – you’ll be master of your menubar in no time.

You Can Arrange (Some) System Icons By Default

Not everyone knows this, but you can arrange the menubar icons that come with your Mac without any third party software: just hold the command key, then click and drag the icons.

re-arrange-mac-icons

You can even drag them off the menubar to get rid of them entirely. So if you don’t need a WiFi indicator or a clock, banish those icons forever without the use of third party software.

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Notification Center and Spotlight are immune to this, sadly. Also immune are the non-Apple icons that appear in the menubar. Even worse: some applications, like Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync, add a menubar icon most users will rarely, if ever, actually use – with no option for turning that icon off.

Relax: there are apps that let you re-arrange and hide these icons entirely.

Barsoom ($7): Hide Icons You Never Use

Barsoom is a simple program that lets you hide any third-party icon. You can also drag the icon to re-arrange it, similar to how Apple’s own icons work by default.

hide-any-icon-barsoom

Just command+click any third-party menubar icon and you can hide it, as seen above. You can bring icons back using Barsoom’s own menubar icon:

Alternatively, you can re-enable icons from Barsoom’s preferences. Explore that and you can also find all of the menubar icons Apple offers in OS X, all in one place.


You can enable all of these things if you explore OS X long enough, but it’s nice to have them all in one place. If you need even more menubar space, click Expand Menubar to briefly hide the text menu at top-left: this should give you more room to work with icons.

Barsoom costs $7, but is free if you purchase any of the developer’s other apps – most of which cost only $5. This prices it competitively compared with what some might consider a more complete option.

Bartender 2 ($15): Menubar Organization For Power Users

We’ve gone over Bartender before An Easy Way To Tidy Up Your Menu Bar With Bartender Beta [Mac] An Easy Way To Tidy Up Your Menu Bar With Bartender Beta [Mac] The menu bar of Mac computers has become, for many power users, nearly as crowded and used as items in the Dock. Besides the default items that appear in the menu bar - including Spotlight,... Read More , so I won’t go into too much detail here, but an update for El Capitan enables it to run without disabling SIP/rootless What Mac Users Need To Know About El Capitan Security What Mac Users Need To Know About El Capitan Security Security is the biggest change to OS X 10.11 El Capitan. OS X is now so locked down even root users can't modify the operating system – let's go over what that means, shall we? Read More (users of the old Bartender can upgrade for $7).

Bartender 2 also delivers a pretty nice visual update for this app which blends in with El Capitan perfectly:

Unlike Barsoom, Bartender allows you to move icons to a secondary bar instead of just hiding them. This is great if there’s some things you want quick access to occasionally but don’t need to see all the time. You can also move and hide system icons with this tool, including the Notification Center (but not Spotlight – Apple has seemingly locked that icon down tight).

The Bartender Bar is a nice added feature, so if you’re willing to pay $15 this is the app for you. There’s a one month free trial.

Broomstick (free): Hide Some Icons, Sort of Works

A couple of years ago I pointed out that Broomstick lets you hide icons Broomstick: Reorganize The Menu Bar Apps On Your Mac Broomstick: Reorganize The Menu Bar Apps On Your Mac Read More , and it’s still offered by Zibity for free. I’m not sure it’s still actively maintained, but if you’d rather not pay it’s your best bet.

I was able to hide Evernote’s icon with Broomstick in El Capitan, but Dropbox seemed to respawn. And as with other apps, trying to hide Spotlight didn’t work out:

It’s a less user friendly than the above options, and supports a limited number of apps, but if you’re looking for something free it’s your best bet (your mileage may vary).

Hide The Mac Menubar Entirely

If your main reason for wanting to manage icons is a problem with visual clutter while working — and you actually enjoy using menubar icons the rest o the time — your best bet might be to simply hide the menubar. Good news: if you’ve installed El Capitan, the latest version of OS X OS X El Capitan is Here! Upgrade For A Smoother Mac Experience OS X El Capitan is Here! Upgrade For A Smoother Mac Experience Mac OS X El Capitan is a subtle release: its biggest changes aren't visible — but you'll probably notice them anyway. Read More , you can now hide the menubar completely Hate the Dock and Menubar in OS X? Here's How to Get Rid of Them Hate the Dock and Menubar in OS X? Here's How to Get Rid of Them Hiding the dock and menu bar in OS X is easier than you think. Here's how to do it. Read More .

Head to General under System Preferences and you can set the menubar to hide, as shown above. Just like that the menubar will only show up when you move your mouse to the top of the screen. While you’re there, you might as well try out Dark Mode too.

The Best Uses For The Menubar

I found a few other options while researching this article: there’s Menubar ReArranger ($10), for example. But the above three probably cover a good range of use cases pretty well.

I’d like to know which alternatives you’ve found, and also what you use your Mac menubar for. It’s a surprisingly versatile tool: it can replace your Mac’s dock StatusDuck Replaces Your Mac’s Dock With Menubar Icons StatusDuck Replaces Your Mac’s Dock With Menubar Icons Love your Mac, but not the dock? Replace it with something smaller. StatusDuck ($15, free beta) lets you manage your open applications completely from the menubar. Read More , or give you great access to your calendar Manage Your Calendar From The Mac Menubar With Fantastical Manage Your Calendar From The Mac Menubar With Fantastical Manage your calendar, completely, from your Mac's menu bar. Fantastical isn't just a way to quickly see your upcoming events: it's a way to never look at Apple's default Calendar again. Read More .

What information do you like having in your menubar?

  1. Félix Hamel
    May 8, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Is there a way of changing the color in an other color than black

    • Dean
      August 9, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      Hi Tim I'd like to know, too: do any of the apps you found offer a means of changing menu item colors?

      • Dean
        August 9, 2016 at 6:41 pm

        Sorry, I meant "Hi Justin"!

  2. MaX
    January 1, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Thanks. Are there free ones?

    • Justin Pot
      January 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Not that I've found, I've looked quite a bit too.

  3. Maker
    December 26, 2015 at 12:31 am

    "just hold the command key, then click and drag the icons".

    Great, but does not work with third-party icons like StuffIt Deluxe, MenuMeters, Mountain, CopyPaste, etc.

    How to sort them?

    • Justin Pot
      December 27, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      By buying one of the apps mentioned later in the article.

    • Dan Rees
      June 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Menumeters icons can be arranged from inside the combine/order menu of the the preferences pane ;)

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