Solving the Menu Bar Blues with Broomstick

It’s really easy to get out of control with your menu bar apps. There are just so many cool apps out there that make it really hard to decide on just a few apps to use so that your status bar stays uncluttered. If I could, I would have my menu bar filled with dozens of handy utilities, but that’s clearly not an option.

That’s why I recently started up on the task of getting rid of as much clutter as I could in my menu bar. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to do it with a simple and free app called Broomstick that allows you to hide menu bar apps that you wouldn’t normally be able to. How about we get to it?

Dear Menu Bar Apps,

Comments

One of many…

I’ve been called out dozens of times by our readers when they see a screenshot of my menu bar and they see tons of app icons stacked up there in the corner of my screen. It’s not very attractive aesthetically to have them all cluttered up in there. It gets pretty nasty too, and it’s hard to find something that you’re looking for when you have another billion things in the way.

Icons

Icons

Recently I made it a task to clean things up a little. I started by trying to leave only the most crucial apps that I use in my menu bar. My goal was getting my items to less than 7, which leaves plenty of space for the menus of each app without getting my screen too untidy. But when I was closing up on the number of desired apps, I realized that there were a lot of them that I wasn’t able to hide through the usual ways. There just weren’t any settings for hiding them: if I wanted to run them, their menu bar icon had to be there. And then…

Broomstick

Broomstick

Broomstick

Broomstick works by letting you hide icons that would normally be un-hideable. Most apps have some sort of setting to turn off their menu bar components, but if they don’t then there’s not much you can do about it. One alternative is to hide those icons with an app called Bartender, but at $15 it might be a little too expensive of a solution if you’re only going to use it to hide icons that you don’t use.

Broomstick is free and it’s compatible with a big list of popular apps. It won’t kill the apps that it hides, it will only forbid them from getting access to your beloved menu bar. This way, you just have to tell it one time to hide them and it will remember to hide them forever, while still having them run in the background. You hide them once, and they stay like that until you tell Broomstick to show them again. That’s it.

Some examples of apps that I love but don’t have any use for in the menu bar are Dropbox and f.lux. You have as well an extensive list of apps to choose from, even Apple’s own Spotlight if you’d rather work with something like Alfred.

Broomstick Compatibility

Support

Support

There are some things that aren’t supported yet in Broomstick, and that I really wish were. I’ve been using this new cross-platform messaging service called LINE as a replacement to other similar services like Whatsapp and Apple’s own Messages. The service is great because I can keep in touch with anyone who has an Android device right from my Mac. But unfortunately, the Mac app for it is not that great for a number of reasons that I won’t get to here. One of them is that its menu bar icon is pretty much useless, and there’s no way to remove it from the actual app, nor from Broomstick since it’s still not supported.

The developer of Broomstick is pretty cool about it and states that he has all the intentions to get Broomstick to be as compatible as he can, but it’s pretty hard when there’s so many requests. You can help him out by doing this.

What Should Be There and What Shouldn’t

End Result

End Result

Broomstick is amazing and all, but hiding app icons is not at all amazing. You still must choose what should be in your menu bar and what’s out. I found some items in my menu bar that I didn’t really get much use out of, even though they seem “critical”. For example: I only use Bowtie once in a while to disable Last.fm scrobbling when I’m listening to something embarassing or watching a video (don’t mess with my scrobblings, my library must remain clean). I realized it’s actually easier to bring up the settings of Bowtie and shut down scrobbling whenever I need to (once a week at most), than keeping the menu bar component of the app up all the time just “in case I need it”.

What works for you or what doesn’t is all up to you. Broomstick is no Bartender: it won’t help you organize your apps in folder-like stacks, it will only help you “hide” the ones that you normally wouldn’t be able to so that you can free up some space in your menu bar. Getting rid of the things that you don’t use is your job.


Summary

Broomstick makes it easy to hide the menu bar icons of apps that normally wouldn't allow such a thing to be done.

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  • Don

    BARTENDER is also a great app for this; you can demote lesser-used icons to a sub-menu. The $15 fee is a pittance for the quality support and how they stay on top of new apps and insure compatibility.

    http://www.macbartender.com/

    • Mike A.

      As one of the early purchasers of Bartender, I will argue to the death that every penny I spent was well worth it. The ability to hide unwanted application icons or to create a second bar that hides away until I need it is priceless. While others may not agree with my madness, I even hide one or two of the system icons in there.

      • Jeremy

        Same here. Bought it back in the beta when it was cheap. Easily my favorite paid app. Cleaned up my menu bar a ton!

    • Muratcan Simsek

      Much to pricy for what it does, but i guess that’s because there is no worthy competition. I will look into making something.

  • nemesit

    Yeah Bartender has far better features and really solves all menubar related problems ;-p

    • CJ

      I’d rather pay for quality software than get something for free and wish it did more.

  • http://oldarobot.co.uk Rob Holder

    I use Bartender by far the best solution

  • http://www.zibity.com Sebastian Hallum Clarke

    Hi there, I’m Sebastian, the developer of Broomstick.

    Thanks for the great review!

    Not that it’s related at all to the article, but I am in the process of developing a new Mac app related to syncing files, though it’s not your everyday Dropbox copy! I’m looking for beta testers. If you’re interested, please send me a message at http://www.zibity.com/contact and I’ll let you know all of the details!

  • http://iynque.com iynque

    The article mentions Bartender, which I use and love, but it also explains that Bartender is $15 and Broomstick is free!

    • Jeremy

      It’s $15 for a reason.. it’s damn good.

  • David

    Here’s another vote for Bartender. The really nice thing about Bartender isn’t just being able to hide unimportant menu bar items, it’s being able to have a second menu bar that can come up and stay up when you want. For example, I have iStat Menus and used to only enable two of the sensor indicators in order to save space. Now I’ve enabled all of the indicators, and put them into the Bartender bar. If I need the screen space then the Bartender bar is hidden; otherwise, it’s visible for me to see all of the indicators or to interact with other unimportant menu bar items.

    Broomstick is free and offers a nice solution to menu bar clutter for applications that don’t let you disable the menu bar item, but Bartender is on a whole other level of usability. It’s a fantastic application.

  • Olivier V.

    Tried installing broomstick, get an OSStatus error as I launch it.

  • Lala

    Installed it. Tried it. This app did nothing. I tried to hide Evernote twice: it failed miserably both times and told me the icon was successfully hidden.

    Upside: I took a good look at why my menu bar was crowded and fixed it.

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