25 Marvellous Mac Menu Bar Apps & Utilities

The humble menu bar is a fascinating part of the Mac OS X interface. It’s always visible, and holds a remarkably prominent position on your display – far more so than the Dock.

Some people love to keep it as empty as possible, while others have so many menu bar apps that it’s literally full to overflowing. Whichever camp you fall into, almost everyone has at least one or two apps that they feel are worthy of a place in the magical menu bar.

Today we’re going to take a close look at 25 different apps that offer really useful menu bar functionality. Each has a short description, and a example video of the app in-use.

I’m not for one moment suggesting that you download and run all of these. That would be crazy. Rather I hope that you’ll find one or two that particularly stand out for you, and become a permanent resident in the top-right corner of your display…


Often you don’t need the exact time in hours, minutes and seconds. A more human readable style like “five past ten” makes more sense. FuzzyClock is a menubar clock which displays the current time in a “fuzzy” style.

I find this to be particularly useful as it removes the temptation to worry about one minute of time here or there. It also removes the mindless “clock watching” you may find yourself falling into, just watching the minutes tick by!


If you’re a little tired of your iTunes music collection, Radium offers a simple way to tune in to thousands of online radio stations. The execution is wonderfully minimal, with basic search functionality and the ability to mark your favourite tracks for easy access.

We’ve reviewed Radium in the past, and I’m a big fan. Various preferences let you scrobble music to Last.fm, integrate with Growl, or even hook Radium up to subscription radio services such as Sirius, Sky.fm, and various others.


There’s no shortage of FTP applications on OS X, but our readers seem to be dedicated Transmit fans.

I was interested to see how few people use ExpanDrive. This is a menu bar app that’s capable of mounting an FTP volume on your local desktop, which acts in completely the same way as a physically attached USB drive. It’s a whole new way to work with FTP, and an absolute must-see.

Take Five

Take Five is the latest creation to come from the Iconfactory, bringing their popular iOS app to the desktop. Take Five gives you a simple way to quickly pause your music, and have it resume after a certain amount of time (five minutes, by default).

Although a simple idea, this comes in handy more often than you’d think. The interface is beautiful, and it’s a menu bar app that’s well worth giving a try.


If you’ve ever reached the end of the day and found yourself wondering where your time went, RescueTime might be just what you need. Although more of a web app than a desktop app, the menu bar agent keeps track of all the apps, documents, and websites used throughout the day.

You can then login to the RescueTime site to see a breakdown of all this information, and figure out what you need to cut out to improve productivity!


As the name would suggest, TinyAlarm is a quick way to set an… alarm. You can either select a time from a pre-selected list, or specify one using the OS X clock widget. When the time arrives, TinyAlarm will notify you with a message and sound.

All these are customisable in preferences, and there are plenty of different sounds to choose from – some better than others! You can also select a “snooze” interval, for when you want to delay the alarm by a few minutes.


Although it can be very handy to have a computer that automatically put itself to sleep after a certain period of inactivity, there are times when this can be a real nuisance (when listening to music, or watching a film).

Caffeine gives you an attractive menu bar icon that can quickly enable or disable your Mac’s automatic sleep functionality with a single click.


Jumpcut is a simple way to store the items you copy to your clipboard for later reference. Rather than each new item overwriting the previous, you can recall them at any time with a few keystrokes.

Although many applications offer this functionality (Alfred, for one), it’s handy to have a single-serving app for the purpose of supercharging your clipboard!


Bookmarks and favourites are probably the most-used feature of web browsers, and I don’t need to explain how helpful they can be for heavy web users. AllBookmarks puts your browser bookmarks right in the menu bar – for all major OS X browsers.

You can navigate through your bookmark folder structure, and go to a website with a single click. From the developers of the excellent 1Password, this is a fantastic utility to have at your fingertips.


Fluid is a fairly unique piece of software, designed to create a “SSB” (site specific browser) for your favourite websites and web applications. This creates a dedicated native application for a particular website that can be placed in your Dock.

An interesting feature of Fluid is the ability to create an SSB that attaches to your menu bar and displays as a small drop-down window. This works particularly well for using mobile-optimised websites, such as mobile Gmail as shown in the example above.


As if Facebook wasn’t already enough of a drain on international time and attention, FaceTab offers a way to make accessing the social networking site even easier. Just click the icon in your menu bar, and you’ll be able to navigate around the majority of what Facebook has to offer.

You can check your wall, post messages, comments, browse photos, and see any pending notifications – all without actually opening the Facebook site. It’s actually a very well-executed piece of software, but won’t help those of you with a Facebook addiction…

iStat Menus

Even if the immediate idea of a series of live statistics in your menu bar doesn’t particularly appeal, don’t write iStat Menus off. It’s far more versatile that you might expect, and can be a very useful tool for digging into system information. The interface is beautifully designed – as you’d expect from Bjango.

You don’t need to automatically display every available option, but certain pieces of information can be useful to have at your disposal. There’s a 14 day trial available that should give you a good idea of how the app works and whether it’s for you.


Although the storage capacity of hard drives seems to be ever-increasing, since installing an SSD I have begun to keep closer track of the data that’s eating up space on my drive. It feels good to be back in control, without a hard drive that’s full of scattered information.

SpaceControl gives you a really simple way to keep track of the space available on one (or several) hard drives, and receive notifications when you’re running a little low on space. Though not particularly packed with functionality – you could do the same thing with AppleScript – it’s a handy utility for a couple of dollars.


Concentrating on a single application at any one time can be a frustrating problem for computer users. There are so many different distractions present – from Twitter and Facebook, to your bouncing email icon – that it’s difficult to keep focus.

Isolator aims to help this problem by, when enabled, only showing one application at a time. The rest of the screen can either be blurred, or “isolated” completed with a single colour. Although not as advanced as a solution such as Concentrate, it’s a great free option.

WeatherBug Alert

Although there seems to be a wealth of different weather apps available for iOS, the same isn’t really true for the Mac. Maybe it’s because dedicated weather websites offer so much information for free that it can be hard to compete.

WeatherBug Alert for Mac helps you plan your day with confidence by putting severe weather alerts and your live temperature on your desktop. It also contains links across to the full forecast at the Weatherbug.com site.

Although it would be good to have these integrated into the app, this simple menu bar widget won’t cost you a cent (and so it’s hard to complain!)


If you often use your computer into the early hours of the morning, you’ll be familiar with how frustrating a bright computer screen can be with the rest of the room in relative darkness. It definitely isn’t good for your eyes!

F.lux serves the interesting purpose of adjusting your screen colour to be better suited for night-time viewing. There are various preferences to tweak how this happens, and it can be a very handy utility for nocturnally-inclined readers.

Just don’t use it if you’re planning on doing any design work that relies on colour, as you’ll stand to be shocked when returning to your computer in the morning!


Although you should certainly be backing up on a regular basis, there’s no harm in also keeping an eye on the ongoing health of your hard drive. Many new models integrate SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology), a technology that detects and reports on various indicators of reliability, in the hope of anticipating drive failures.

SMARTReporter sits in your menu bar as an ongoing reminder that your drive is in a good condition. If any problems occur, you’ll be notified in advance so that you can double-check your backups and look into purchasing a new drive!

Spirited Away

We’d all love to have a faster processor in our Mac, but what if there was a way to make better use of the processing power you already have? Spirited Away makes it easy to automatically “pause” a particular application, and stop it using any processing power if it’s been inactive for a period of time.

You can choose to exclude certain applications (for instance, you might be watching a video in your browser and would prefer it not to “pause”), and select preferences relating to the inactivity time.


“Not another to-do list”, I hear you say. There are certainly enough task managers available to completely overflow your Applications folder, but Dejumble takes a slightly simpler approach to most. It has a unique interface, differentiating itself from the usual Mac experience.

You have a task inbox, a list of projects, and simple search functionality. Although it doesn’t technically drop down from your menu bar, it feels more akin to a menu application rather than a traditional piece of software.


If you’re looking for a simple email client that resides in your menu bar, Notify is very likely to fit the bill. You can add multiple accounts, check, read, and reply to messages. Notify supports mutliple accounts, including Gmail/Google Apps, MobileMe, and Rackspace Email. All in a beautiful interface.

Rather than replacing your current email client (although it could, in theory), Notify is meant to be a way to stay up-to-date with new messages, filing those that don’t warrant your attention, deleting spam, and firing back simple replies.


MailCue is another email client that sits in your menu bar, but offers a more full-featured interface and experience that Notify. This isn’t necessarily better, and it all depends upon how you’d like to interact with your new emails and messages.

Particularly welcome is the functionality to “sleep” an email account, so that you can leave email alone and get down to work when needed.


Ejecting volumes has long been a frustrating process in OS X – both for virtual, software volumes and physical devices as well. To do so, you’re required to either open Finder and click eject next to the drive name, or head over to your desktop to right click > Eject.

Ejector makes the process a little bit quicker, by listing all mounted volumes in your menu bar and giving you a one-click location to eject them. Particularly handy for ejecting all volumes if you’re wanting to unplug your laptop to take with you!


Desktopple gives you a few unique and interesting ways to experiment with, clean up, and interact with your desktop. A key piece of functionality is a quick button to hide all the icons, folders, and drives on your desktop – they’re replaced with an image or wallpaper of your choosing.

It can also automatically hide windows that haven’t been used for a while (“Window Cleaning”), or dim your menu bar to further reduce distractions when working.

Desktopple is particularly handy if you regularly find yourself giving a presentation – or if you just hate desktop clutter!


MenuPrefs does more or less exactly what you’d expect – puts System Preferences right in your menu bar! Depending on how often you find yourself dipping into System Preferences, you may find this amazingly useful or slightly unnecessary.

It’s certainly very handy to be able to jump straight to a particular preference pane, rather than bringing up the main System Preferences window first.

Coming Soon: Fantastical

A final application I wanted to give a quick shout-out to is the upcoming Fantastical. I’ve been beta-testing the app for a few weeks, and it seems set to be a very handy piece of software that you won’t want to miss.

Residing in the menu bar, it revolutionises the way you interact with iCal and enter new items. Get your details registered to find out more when Fantastical is released!

Share Your Thoughts!

I’ve brought together a thorough collection of some of my favourite menu bar apps today, but I’m sure there are plenty more that I have missed. I’d love to hear a few more suggestions in the comments – share your favourite menu bar apps, and let me know which you couldn’t live without!

Also, I’d be interested to hear what you think of the mini-screencasts used above. Are these a helpful way to showcase the applications that we feature, and would you like to see them used more often?