Take Your Menu Bar to Go with MenuPop

Macs these days span the extremes, from 11-inch MacBook Airs to 27-inch iMacs. It’s a prevalent first-world problem: there’s not enough space on your laptop, but everything’s too far away on the big screen. When you’re working on a large screen monitor (or two), especially when you work in design, you lose focus when you go searching through menu bar items way off in the arctic circle of your monitor.

MenuPop by Binary Bakery is an attempt to remedy this by making menu bar items available anywhere on your screen. Read on to find out if this little utility can save you from getting lost in a sea of pixels!

Getting Started

The first thing you’ll want to do with MenuPop is assign a global keyboard shortcut so that you can access your menu items from any application. I chose the default Option + Z.

Setting MenuPop keyboard and mouse controls

Setting MenuPop keyboard and mouse controls

You can also assign MenuPop a mouse button if you have a multi-button mouse (which I imagine is uncommon for Mac users). A much more practical option allows you to assign an unused tablet button.

Using MenuPop

Invoking MenuPop displays all the menu bar options for an application in a vertical menu, like the one that displays when you right-click in an application. From the MenuPop menu, you can do anything you would normally do through the menu bar, and so far I haven’t come accross an unsupported application.

MenuPop works seamlessly with Adobe products

MenuPop works seamlessly with Adobe products

Preferences

Other than assigning custom hotkeys or buttons to MenuPop, you control what MenuPop displays, and the appearance of the menu. You can disable the Apple menu or the Application menu (e.g. the “Photoshop” menu). You can choose to show or hide “alternate” menu items, which are the items in some applications that display only when you hold down the option key. You can also adjust the font size of the menu, from small to super large (which isn’t actually that huge).

Advanced settings

Advanced settings

Room for Improvement

MenuPop would go from handy to indispensible if you could assign it to multi-touch gestures. Bringing up all your menu bar items with a three-finger tap would be a definite time-saver for those of us that embrace the multi-touch future (or trend?).

Who it’s For

Large Monitor Users

As mentioned before, this is really a utility aimed at people who work on large monitors. I really don’t use it much on my 13-inch MacBook, but it’s definitely a time-saver on the 21-inch monitor I use at work.

Dual Monitor Users

If you have a dual monitor set-up (lucky you), you’ve likely taken issue with the fact that your menu bar only appears on one monitor. There are ways around this issue, SecondBar adds a menu bar to your secondary monitor, and Binary Bakery’s own Menu Everywhere allows you to add a secondary menu bar to the top of your second screen, or add menu bar items to the top of application windows. MenuPop offers a simpler option, allowing you to bring your menu bar items with you wherever you go.

Tablet Users

When you’re using a small tablet, everything on your screen seems far away (even on a 13” laptop). When you’re drawing, you can keep your cursor with your art and access all your menu bar options from the keyboard, or from an assignable button on your tablet.

Keyboard Ninjas

You can navigate MenuPop using only your arrow keys, so I can see MenuPop being very appealing to all the mouse-shunners out there that resent the long trek to the menu bar.

Full-screen App Users

Though initially hesitant, I’m now a big fan of Lion’s full-screen apps. Though I love the immersive experience, I find my Mac always slows down and hiccups a bit whenever I try to access the menu bar in full screen mode. I find myself using MenuPop while full-screening Pages even when I’m on my laptop.

Conclusion

I’m personally a fan of the menu bar in general, I like the uniformity and predictability it brings to applications. That said, it can definitely be a visual distraction and it takes up screen real estate. After using MenuPop for a while, I almost want to just ditch the menu bar entirely (that “almost” would be a “definitely” with multi-touch support). To that end, MenuAndDockless will allow you to hide the menu bar (and dock) when using selected Cocoa applications, and the older MagicMenu can hide the menu bar entirely (though both apps take a bit of hacking and configuration). A bit of Googling will turn up a couple more complicated options involving some modified plist files.

I really like MenuPop, it does one simple thing exactly the way you’d expect it to, and I think I’m definitely more productive when working on a large screen or with my tablet. $4.99 might seem a little steep for a one-trick utility, but if you’ve already shelled out the cash for a large monitor (or two), it seems like a pretty reasonable price to gain back some productivity.

Any dual monitor users out there? I’d be curious to hear whether the lack of menu bar on the secondary monitory is a help or hinderance. Do you think $5 is a fair price to keep the menu bar at your fingertips?


Summary

MenuPop lets you access menu bar items from anywhere on your screen with a global keyboard shortcut.

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  • Seb

    You’re little late. It was free in MAS about week ago :-) But, anyway, it’s a great app. (not only because I didn’t have to pay)

    • http://tessathornton.com Tessa Thornton

      I was lucky with that too :)

  • http://foxyup.com Yigit Ozdamar

    Finally something for keyboard heroes! Gonna buy it!

  • Alex

    Just downloaded it, haven’t triednit but it should be wonderful. After using Autodesk Maya for years you get spoiled for menu behaviour: hitting the spacebar will bring up all the (customizable) menus of the app. You can choose what to show and what to hide. I’ve often yearned for all apps to offer this. Menupop seems to get closer to this ideal, all they need now is to make it customizable as to which menus to show and which to hide.

  • http://www.binarybakery.com Binary Bakery

    Dev here. For those looking to use MenuPop with gestures, I recommend downloading MagicPrefs. It’s free and allows you to assign a gesture to a hot key or mouse button (which can be a middle mouse button), both of which work fine with MenuPop.

    Thanks!
    Hisham @ binarybakery

  • Scott

    I know Tessa mentioned MenuEverywhere, but some might be interested to know that its menubar functions are In Addition to what MenuPop does—MenuEverywhere is MenuPop plus a lot more. It’s worth checking out, especially if you use multiple displays (it’s not limited to one or two) or a tablet display like the Wacom Cintiq. It has some quirks working with software made by companies that don’t follow Apple’s interface design guidelines (Adobe, Autodesk, etc…), but it’s still better than the single menu setup and Binary Bakery is always improving both MenuPop and MenuEverywhere.

    $5 is an excellent price to pay for MenuPop, but if you need more features for multiple displays my advice is: see if SecondBar is good enough for you—because it’s free—and when that fails to satisfy, get MenuEverywhere. It’s well worth the $15. And those prices buy good apps, but also superior development and tech support!

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