My Mac’s menu bar under Yosemite is quite a hectic place to the untrained eye. But, once you get used to it, it is actually quite useful. Let’s take a trip through it now, starting off with the defaults. These you probably already know, but I’m going to list them off anyways. Starting from right to left, we have Notification Center, Spotlight, the time, my battery, and WiFi. I’ve manually enabled the Bluetooth icon, and Messages appears when the app is open (always).

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.17.20 PM
The default icon set for the Mac menu bar. I have Bluetooth and Messages added manually though.

Next, we’ll get to the third party apps and their icons. Again, we’ll start from the right. The first app I have installed with a menu bar icon is the Fitbit Connect program. It allows you to sync and set up a Fitbit activity tracker, as long as you have the Fitbit Bluetooth dongle plugged into an available USB port. If you’d like to see a review of my Fitbit (the Fitbit Zip), leave a comment below.

Second from the right you’ll find the Apple Location Services icon. This only appears when your Mac is finding your location, and at the time of this screenshot, it just so happened to appear and thus, be included.

Right alongside that is the Bluestacks App Player. At the time of this writing, it’s no longer available for the Mac. I still happen to have it though, and I’ll give you a link to download it if you want. Just leave a comment below for that. What is it though? An Android emulator that actually works (or rather worked) quite well. I don’t use it so much anymore but I still have it.

Next is Caffeine, a great menu bar utility that keeps your Mac from falling asleep. Click to fill the coffee cup, and thus prevent your Mac from going to sleep. Click it again, and the coffee is drained, allowing your Mac to fall asleep again. Note that this does override your energy saver and sleep settings, which can and will affect battery on laptops.

Right in the middle of the third party section is X-Mirage. It lets you mirror iOS audio and video to your Mac wirelessly via AirPlay. You can name your device, set a passcode, and even choose to mirror just audio to use your Mac as a speaker (or use speakers connected to it). I don’t use it much, but it’s nice to have there.

Obviously, the bird icon is Twitter. I find myself only using that, and when I happen to go the web, it feels weird. Which is good, since Twitter’s desktop interface is very easy to use, so when I switch to the web, it’s different. Twitter offers notifications whenever you’re favorited, retweeted, followed or added to a list. It is very handy. The reason I have it in my menu bar is to click it, which shows and hides the app (configurable via the Twitter settings within the app). It also turns blue when one of the mentioned activities happens, offering a quick glance at your social life.

Second from the left is one I didn’t install on my computer, LanSchool. I’m writing this from my school laptop, which has the exact same things in the menu bar as my personal laptop with the exception of this app. It allows your teacher to monitor what you’re doing, lets them block sites, and allows them to control your computer. I don’t think that this is free – you’d have to ask the IT guy.

Finally, on the far left we have ControlPlane. I installed this literally a few hours before I started writing this article. It allows you to set triggers and resulting actions on your Mac, sort of like IFTTT.¬†How I configured it is as follows: When I arrive at school, set a passcode lock when waking from sleep. When I arrive at home, remove the passcode lock. It’s really handy and offers tons more features than what I listed it as.

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The third party icons/apps I use. From left to right, ControlPlane, LanSchool, Twitter, X-Mirage, Caffeine, BlueStacks App Player, Location Services and Fitbit Connect.


Finally, here’s a look at my whole menu bar. The only time it stinks is when I have an app like Microsoft Word open, which has lots of menu options of its own. Then, I lose some of mine for the time being.

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A look at my whole menu bar


Now you know what I have on my Mac’s menu bar! I recommend all of them (except LanSchool