The goodies in my menu bar

menubar David likes to tease me about the many items in my iMac's menu bar (above). Today I came across Brett Terpstra's post about his menu bar items. He even has a menu bar app called Bartender that adds a second row of menu bar items!

I plan to install some of Brett's favorites on my computer (Visits and Dropzone for sure) and make my row of menu bar items even longer.

Here are my current menu bar items, from left to right:

1. Fantastical. A calendar and reminder application that works with Google Calendars.

2. Airmail. The best email app for Gmail users. It takes a long time to load the email when I launch it in the morning, but it's much speedier than web-based Gmail. And it's only $2!

3. Tweetbot. It's not a very intuitive Twitter application (I still have trouble doing certain things because the interface hides a lot of stuff and puts things in the wrong place) but it's still better than any other Twitter app I've tried.

4. Google Drive. I switched from Word to Google Docs years ago. Google Drive, where I store my writing, behaves like an ordinary folder on my computer.

5. TextExpander. I'm a fast hunt-and-peck typist, but my error rate is high. This keyboard shortcut app lets me type in a few characters, like "adr," which immediately get expanded into my full address and phone number. It's got more powerful features that make it worth buying even though OS X has a built-in keyboard shortcut utility.

6. Adobe Creative Cloud. Never mind about this one.

7. AudioSwitcher. It lets me switch audio inputs and outputs without opening System Preferences. I use this many times a day.

8. Chrome Notifications. I don't think this works. I need to look into it.

9. Divvy. I use this more than any other menu bar item. I have divvied up my display into a 6 x 6 grid. With hotkeys I can resize and move any window into one or more of the grids. It's $15 but I've had it for over a year and have used it thousands of times.

10. 1Password. A terrific password manager. I use a different password for every online account I have. They passwords are long strings of gibberish generated by 1Password. I have the app on my phone, too, so I can access login info wherever I am.

11. Evernote. I have thousands of scanned paper documents in Evernote. Every scrap of paper than comes into my life goes into Evernote and then gets shredded and recycled. (I use a ScanSnap document scanner with Evernote. Read my review of this life-changing machine here.)

12. Backblaze. $5 a month backs up my computer's hard drive and attached hard drives. A good deal for peace of mind.

13. Adobe Updater. Like item 6 above, this is a waste of space. I need to get it off my menu bar.

14. Bitcasa Infinite Drive. I stopped using Dropbox after suspicionless-wiretapper Condoleezza Rice joined Dropbox's board. I'm currently evaluating cloud-storage alternatives to Dropbox. So far, Bitcasa is performing beautifully. 20GB for free, and 1TB is just $10/month. This is much cheaper than Dropbox, and more importantly, "the Bitcasa Platform keeps your digital belongings safe and secure by encrypting all your files before they’re uploaded -- you, and only you, have access to your stuff. Not even Bitcasa employees can see your files!" Dropbox, on the other hand, has serious privacy concerns, and its recent move to add Rice to its board was the last straw.

15. Time Machine. I need to get Bartender to add this to a second, hidden, row.

16. Bluetooth. Ditto

17. Wi-Fi

18. Output volume

19. Date and time

20. Spotlight. Very slow and hard to use. Can anyone suggest a replacement?

Whew! That took a lot longer than I thought. I hope this is useful to some of you. If you use menu bar items that you love, let's hear about them in the BBS!

Notable Replies

  1. mzed says:

    You don't need AudioSwitcher; opt-click on the menu bar speaker icon that controls volume. Does David's teasing involve references to NASCAR?

  2. I don't use spotlight all that much but when I do, it always shows me exactly what I'm looking for within a few keystrokes (I primarily use it to launch applications that aren't in my dock, but also to find documents etc.)

    So I am curious about what problems Mark has with Spotlight, and also what advantages the Alfred app might bring. I remember using Quickilver as others have suggested a few years ago to replace or supplement Spotlight, but I can't remember why because Spotlight seems fine (it didn't used to be as good, granted, which may have been why I looked for something to supplement it). It looks like Alfred has a bunch of neat features, but if I'm honest, none of them look like things I'd ever really use.

    On a different topic, the Airmail app looks like exactly what I've been looking for. I just recently switched to Apple's Mail app for the first time - when I first switched to a Mac I carried over using Thunderbird from Linux, but it was slow and buggy, so I switched to the great Sparrow app (meant primarily for gmail), which Google bought out and then killed and which despite receiving no updates eventually stopped working altogether for some reason, so I switched to Inky, which is OK but needs a lot of work IMO (unnecessarily quirky, it's in beta though, understandable) and uses a lot of system resources.

    So I switched to Mail for simplicity a week or two ago and it's perfectly fine, but not as nice as the things built for or based on gmail. Airmail looks like it's very similar to the Sparrow design philosophy I liked.

    Some other stuff in my menu bar:

    Chrome notifications - this doesn't seem to work for me either

    adium, dropbox, google drive

    fl.lux - makes the screen colors warmer at night. Happens gradually at sunset (based on your location) and your eyes adjust and you really don't notice, but it's noticeably less straining. I've been using it for years and I notice immediately using other peoples' computers at night that they're bright and hurty. Disables automatically when you switch to programs of your choosing (like photoshop/lightroom for me).

    Caffeine - clicking the icon fills the mug with coffee, and then the computer won't turn the display off or go to sleep etc. for an hour (or a default of your choosing, or select a different amount of time from the right-click menu). Very useful.

    MiddleClick - this is a background process that turns a three-finger touchpad tap into a middle click, for opening new tabs etc. There are more advanced gesture apps that do the same and more and I've tried them, but they're less reliable (i.e. they don't actually work half the time you try to do a gesture, which is annoying and frustrating) and this is the only thing I really want on top of the built-in stuff anyway. I open about a million tabs a day using a three-finger tap instead of having to hold down a keyboard key.

    I have a network status, CPU and RAM monitors (with a drop-down menu showing what's using the most resources - I check these constantly when things are running slow to see what the culprit is), and a better battery monitor, these come from iStat Menus. Apparently I'm on version 3, which IIRC was free, and version 4 is now $16. I do use it all the time but not sure I'd bother paying for it on a new computer... there are a million other features you get for that $16 that I don't actually use myself.

  3. This post only cost me $15.00 for Divvy which replaced Spectacle...

    +1 for Bartender - well worth the cost
    +1 for f.lux

    I'd also add

  4. I get twitchy when I have more than 2 icons up there.

    Anything that makes me feel like I'm turning into Steve Wozniak, gods bless him, scares me a little bit.

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