Mac

15 Mac Menu Bar Apps You Should Check Out

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Menu Bar apps sit in your Mac’s menu bar and provide access to an array of features and services, all with just a simple click or tap of the app’s menu bar icon. They can bring additional productivity, utility, or security, or add useful information to your Mac’s menu bar.

The basic menu bar with Apple-supplied menu items shown.

Our list of 15 menu bar apps is by no means all-inclusive; there are so many apps available that it would take quite a while to combine them into a single list. Instead, I’ve gathered a list of menu bar apps that I’ve either used or are popular in the Mac community, and are worth trying out.

Let’s start our list of favorite menu bar apps with ones that enhance your productivity.


Calendars

Yes, your Mac comes with its own Calendar app, which does a pretty good job of keeping track of dates and notifying you of upcoming events. But to add, edit, and view the calendars, the app needs to be running. That’s where menu bar-based calendar apps shine, letting you work with your calendars directly from the menu bar.

Fantastical

Currently at version 2, Fantastical started life as strictly a menu bar app but has grown into a full-fledged Mac app. Thankfully, the folks who make Fantastical didn’t abandon the menu bar; version 2 has all the original benefits of a lightweight menu bar app, as well as the power of a full app when you need it.

Fantastical menu bar app.

Fantastical provides easy access to your current calendar and upcoming events.

Fantastical supports multiple calendars, and calendar sets, which can automatically switch their active/inactive states depending on your location. This lets you set up calendars for work as well as home, and automatically switch between them.

• Fantastical 2 is $49.99, with a 21-day free trial.

Itsycal

If the Mac’s Calendar app is performing well for you, and the feature you’re really missing is access to Calendar from the menu bar, Itsycal is the menu bar app for you. Itsycal can display a monthly view of your Calendar app’s information, including showing events that are scheduled. If you need additional information, you can open the Calendar app directly from Itsycal.

• Itsycal is free.


Contact Managers

There are a number of contact managers for the Mac but most are full-fledged apps, with only minimal, if any, menu bar support. One of the exceptions is the app below.

Cardhop

Cardhop is the preferred way to access, edit, add to, and just work with the Mac’s Contacts app. For many Mac and iOS device users, Cardhop is the only method they use to manage their contacts; that’s how powerful this menu bar app is.

Cardhop menu bar app

Cardhop can show upcoming events and recent contacts, as well as all of the cards in the Mac’s Contacts app.

Cardhop makes use of a powerful search capability that allows you to find contact information based on just about any detail that may be present in a contacts card. Search by name, address, birth date, or any criteria; it’s as easy as clicking or tapping the Cardhop menu bar item and starting to type. Cardhop will display any matching cards it finds.

Adding or editing contacts is just as easy; just enter the name and details and Cardhop takes care of the rest. Cardhop also includes the ability to add note fields, to enter personal details about your contact, and a timestamp field to create a history of your contacts.

One of the best features of Cardhop is its ability to act on a contact you select. If you need to send an email or make a phone call, Cardhop can launch the appropriate app to send an email or connect to your Bluetooth phone, use Wi-Fi calling, or get the macOS Continuity feature to make calls for you.

• Cardhop is $19.99 and is available with a 21-day free trial.


System Utilities

Menu bar-based system utilities have a tendency to overpopulate my menu bar. It seems the techie in me wants to know how my Mac’s resources are being used any time I’m using it. There are a number of system menu bar apps, but here are a few of my favorites.

iStat Menus

This system utility will place a number of items in your menu bar to monitor the performance of your Mac. You can keep track of CPU and GPU performance, memory usage, disk access, and network usage; there’s also a large array of built-in system sensors, including various temperature, voltage, current, and wattage readings, You can even measure ambient light levels, if your Mac is properly equipped.

iStat Menus menu bar app

The compact menu bar menus in iStat Menus can reveal details about how your Mac is performing.

iStat Menus can monitor just about every aspect of your Mac’s performance and do it without taking up too much of your menu bar’s real estate.

• iStat Menus is available for $11.99 for a single Mac, or $14.99 for a 5-user family pack. A 14-day free trial is available.

MenuMeters

The original MenuMeters was a handy menu bar system monitor by Alex Harper that stopped working when OS X El Capitan was introduced. Since then, the original open source app has been forked by various developers, to accommodate the newer versions of the Mac OS. This version works with OS X El Capitan through macOS Mojave.

MenuMeters installs as a preference pane that allows you to specify how each item (CPU, Disk, Memory, and Network) should be displayed in the menu bar. You can control the type of information displayed, update intervals, and in some cases, the colors to be used.

• MenuMeters is free.

Memory Clean

Unlike the other system monitor utilities in this group, Memory Clean is dedicated to monitoring a Mac’s memory. It can keep track of memory usage, how memory is being used, which apps are memory hogs, and which apps are inactive but still tying up memory.

Memory Clean menu bar app.

Keeping track of how your memory is being used is one of the many tasks Memory Clean can perform for you.

Additionally, Memory Clean can also purge inactive memory, freeing up RAM that was set aside for apps that are no longer running.

• Memory Clean, currently at version 3, is $9.99. A free trial is available.

Mac Fan Control

This menu bar app can monitor the temperature sensors built into your Mac. But it doesn’t stop there; Mac Fan Control can use the temperature information to control the speed of your Mac’s fans.

You can set a constant fan speed, or assign one of the temperature sensors to be used to regulate a fan’s speed.

Mac Fan Control is a great way to silence a noisy fan momentarily while you perform a critical task, such as recording from a microphone that is located near your Mac. It’s also commonly used to set a fan’s speed when a temperature sensor was broken during an upgrade or tear down that went awry.

• Mac Fan Control is $14.95; a free trial period is available.

f.lux

One of the new features of the macOS was Night Shift, a system that reduces blue light from the display as the evening approaches. The idea is to enhance your sleep cycle by reducing blue light output from a digital display that can interfere with your natural circadian rhythm.

The f.lux app has been providing the same type of capabilities for a lot longer and may be in a better position to provide a better implementation. The f.lux system provides more control to the user and does a better job of reducing blue spectrum output of a display in the evening.

If you need a better night’s sleep after working on your Mac all day, give f.lux a look-see.

• f.lux is free.


Battery Monitors

Mac laptop users need a reliable way to monitor their Mac’s battery to help them stay informed about the current state of the battery, how much run-time is left, and the overall health of the battery.

coconutBattery

This battery monitor has been a Mac staple since 2005. Since then, coconutBattery has branched out to provide battery-monitoring services to the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Mac.

coconutBattery displays your current battery health, how often the battery was charged, the age of the battery, current charge, original and current capacity, battery temperature, and much more.

• coconutBattery is available in a free basic version and a Plus version for $9.95.

Battery Health

Understanding how well your battery is performing is one of the goals of the Battery Health app, but it can also help you prolong the battery’s runtime and longevity.

Battery Health displays the usual battery details: current battery health, capacity, charging cycles, battery temperature, age, manufacture date, the remaining charge on the battery, and how long it will take to fully charge the battery. It can also help you increase the battery runtime by showing you which apps are using the most energy.

Battery Health can also display the battery levels of connected Bluetooth devices, such as your Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, or AirPod.

Battery Health also works for iPhone and iPad devices.

• Battery Health is $9.99; a 3-day free trial is available.


Security

There are quite a few apps for detecting malware that utilize the menu bar. But in many cases, the menu bar is used to launch the associated app. So, instead of listing those security apps, I went with a favorite password manager.

1Password

This password manager has long been a popular Mac app for creating and managing all of a user’s passwords. It provides access via the included full-featured app as well as from the menu bar, and from most Mac web browsers.

1Password mini in Mac's menu bar

Let 1Password manage your logins and passwords, freeing you to use complex passwords for increased security.

The 1Password web extension can handle most of your web-based login and password needs, but with the addition of the menu bar interface, 1Password can be used with any app as well as any web page, even when a web page hinders the use of a password manager.

1Password can generate complex passwords for you and make sure you’re not using duplicate passwords. Since 1Password is storing the passwords and login information for you in an encrypted database, you don’t need to worry about remembering every password, 1Password takes care of that for you.

• 1Password is available for single users and a 5-user family license, as well as business licenses. A free 30-day trial is available.


File Access

If your Mac is getting a little weighed down with apps and files, either of these file access apps can help you find everything faster.

XMenu

This simple little app adds one or more menu items to the menu bar; each menu bar item can be populated with apps, folders, documents, or text snippets.

• XMenu is free and available from the Mac App Store.

Shortcut Bar

Another menu bar app designed to give you quick access to your favorite items, including apps, documents, folders, bookmarks, text snippets, and color swatches.

Short Cut Bar menu bar app.

Shortcut Bar lets you create your own list of important locations and documents that you want to have quick access to.

Items can be organized into groups that can be expanded or hidden as needed – a helpful feature when your Shortcut Bar gets a bit overpopulated.

• Shortcut Bar is $8.99; a free trial is available.


Weather

In the Weather and Menu Bar Utility categories, I only found one app for each that’s worthy of mention.

Meteorologist

There have been quite a few weather widgets for the menu bar, but for me, Meteorologist stands out because of the details it can provide and the community of developers/supporters that keep the app up to date. Meteorologist supports up to eight different locations that can use one of nine different weather services, letting you pick the best service for your location.

Meteorologist in the Mac's menu bar

Keep track of the weather at your favorite locations with Meteorologist.

Meteorologist provides current weather at a glance in the menu bar, an extended five-day forecast, and the versatility to set up the display to meet your personal weather needs.

• Meteorologist is free.


Menu Bar Utility

Bartender

Now that you’ve likely overpopulated your Mac’s menu bar, you may find yourself needing a bartender; by that I mean an app named Bartender that can manage all those menu bar icons.

Bartender can organize, rearrange, and hide or show items. It can also automatically highlight menu bar icons when they update, such as battery alerts, memory filling up, or other notifications a menu bar app may support.

• Bartender is $15.00; a free 4-week trial is available


 

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