How-To Mac Apps

Organize your menu bar with Bartender

Your Mac’s menu bar is perfect for providing quick and easy access to your favourite apps and utilities, as well as important information such as the date, time, and whether you have an active Internet connection.

However, it’s easy to get carried away! If you’ve added so many items that your menu bar is starting to look cluttered, this in this article I’ll show you how to give it a spring clean. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to rearrange every item in your menu bar, and even how to remove system icons, to give your menu bar that clean, streamlined look you’ve been craving!

Moving third party and system menu icons

Let’s start with a simple fix: if you just want to reshuffle your menu bar items, then hold down the ‘Command’ key and use drag and drop to move each icon to a new location. This can be a great way to group related icons, or to make sure your most frequently used icons have pride of place in the menu bar.

Removing Mac menu items

Mac menu items come in two distinct flavours: system icons and third party icons.

To remove a system item from the menu bar, hold down the ‘Command’ key, drag the item away from the menu bar, and then release it.

If the menu item is related to a third party application, then many apps contain settings that let you remove their icons from the menu bar, so boot up the application in question and spend some time exploring its ‘Settings’ and ‘Preference’ menus.

Alternatively, you can use the third party Bartender app, which gives you complete control over the items that appear in your menu bar, and even lets you create a secondary “Bartender bar,” where you can stash infrequently-used menu items.

To start hiding menu items:

  • Head over to the Bartender website. Bartender is priced at £11.68, or you can sign up for a four week free trial.
  • Once you’ve downloaded Bartender, unzip it and launch the Bartender app.
  • This launches the main Bartender user interface. Make sure ‘Menu Items’ is selected.
  • The left-hand menu lists all the items currently taking up space in your menu bar. Select the item that you want to hide.
  • Open the ‘Menu bar item should’ dropdown, and then select ‘Always hide.’ This item will disappear from your Mac’s menu bar.

If you change your mind and want to re-add an item, then select it in Bartender’s left-hand menu, then open the ‘Menu bar should’ dropdown, and select ‘Show in menu bar.’

Add items to the Bartender Bar

Alternatively, you can hide items in a special Bartender Bar, which you can then access by selecting the dotted icon in your Mac’s regular menu bar (where the cursor is positioned in the following screenshot).

By placing items in the Bartender Bar, you can ensure they’re always within easy reach, without cluttering up the regular menu bar. The Bartender Bar is also ideal for menu items that you only access infrequently, or for grouping related items, for example all the menu items related to editing an image.

To move an item to the Bartender Bar:

  • Launch the Bartender app, if you haven’t already.
  • Select the item in question from the left-hand menu.
  • Open the ‘Menu bar item should’ dropdown.
  • Select ‘Show in Bartender menu bar – Hidden by default.’

Access the Bartender Bar with a keyboard shortcut

If you find yourself dipping in and out of the Bartender Bar on a regular basis, then you can save yourself some time by creating a keyboard shortcut:

  • Launch the Bartender app.
  • Select the ‘Hot Keys’ tab.
  • Place your cursor in the ‘Show Bartender Bar items’ field.
  • Press the combination of keys that should switch your Mac from the regular menu bar, to the special Bartender Bar.

Customise the Bartender bar

The Bartender icon is added to your menu bar by default, to provide you with quick and easy access to the Bartender Bar. However, if you’re craving a more minimalistic look, then you can always hide this icon:

  • Launch the Bartender app.
  • Select the ‘Appearance’ tab.
  • Deselect the ‘Visible’ checkbox.

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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