OS X Menu Bar Tips and Tricks

The menu bar in Apple’s OS X doesn’t just contain the menus for the application you’re currently using; it can also hold all sorts of helpful extras that can be accessed from any application with just one click. Here are a few of those extras, plus some handy tips for use in the menu bar.

Free menu extras

There are a few icons that are in the menu bar by default, such as the Wi-Fi menu, the date and time display and the volume menu. There are also a lot of built-in system menus available, but not shown by default. To find them, navigate to System > Library > CoreServices > Menu Extras in the Finder. Here you’ll find even more menu items, such as an Eject item, which lets you eject CDs and DVDs from your optical drive, and Universal Access menu. To add one to the menu bar, simply double-click it in the Finder.

Another way to find additional menus for the menu bar is in the Mac App Store. There are hundreds available.

Tips and tricks

Here are a few tricks to get more from the menus you already have, without downloading new ones:

Hold the option key. Nearly all of the built-in menu items have some hidden extras that reveal themselves if you hold “option” before clicking them. For example, if you hold option and click the Wi-Fi menu, you’ll see some extra information about your current Wi-Fi connection, such as the channel the router is set to and the type of security used. Even more useful: Holding option and clicking the volume button will let you quick choose from your available audio input and output options. Some other menu items with extras include the Bluetooth menu, which allows you to see extra information, and the battery menu which tells you the condition of your battery if you hold option.

Hold the command key. If you hold the command key and drag a menu icon, you can change the order of the icons in the men bar. This only works with the built-in ones for some reason, and excludes Spotlight (which has to stay on the far right). You can also hold command and drag an icon off the menu bar to remove it altogether.

Make the menu bar opaque. If you don’t like being able to see the desktop through the menu bar, you can set it to be opaque. Open System Preferences and open the Dock & Screensaver pane. Under the Desktop tab is a checkbox called Translucent menu bar; uncheck that to set the menu bar to opaque.

Do you have any tips and tricks to share? Let us know in the comments.