Managing Your Mac’s Unruly Menu Bar

| TMO Quick Tip

It's easy to load up your Mac's menu bar with useful add-ons that give you quick access to settings, information, and fast data entry, but it's also easy to quickly fill up and turn into an unmanageable mess. Apple lets you rearrange the items in your menu bar (just Command-click and drag), which is a nice start, but if you need more control over how you see everything you packed in, it's time to turn to third-party apps.

My MacBook Air menu bar is pretty cluttered...My MacBook Air menu bar is pretty cluttered...

My favorite app for taking control of an unruly menu bar is Bartender from Surtees Studios. It's a quick download, and once installed and running, adds a drop-down menu bar that holds the menu items you want but may not need to see all the time. You set what's in your regular menu bar and what's in Bartender.

...but Bartender makes my menu bar easier to manage....but Bartender makes my menu bar easier to manage

To see the stuff you packed away into Bartender just click its menu bar icon, and you can set items that change their state -- like Tweetbot's icon changing color when you receive new messages -- to briefly appear in your menu bar so you don't have to continually check for changes.

Bartender is a must have app on my MacBook Air thanks to its limited screen space, and it helps cut down on distractions on bigger displays, too. It's US$15 and available for download at the Mac Bartender website, and you can try it out for free for a month, too.

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Seems like a nice utility.  But for $15 it’s way too much of a one-trick poney.


You should be able to drag items to reorder them in the menu bar by holding down the Command key, but I have never been able to do this for some reason.  It’s really annoying that my add-on menu items are in a different order every time I log in.

Jeff Gamet

Some menu bar items don’t properly follow the rules and can’t be reordered, which is pretty annoying.


MenuBar ReArranger ($4.99) seems to work on most add-ons.


MenuBar ReArranger ($4.99) seems to work on most add-ons.


“Some menu bar items don’t properly follow the rules and can’t be reordered, which is pretty annoying.”

My understanding is that it’s mostly Apple’s fault for not releasing the API, so in reality, they are following Apple’s (unfair) rules.  However, MenuCracker exists and works very well, so it’s also partly the fault of devs for not using it when writing their menu bar apps.

The worst part is, those menu bar apps load in a different order every time.  For those situations, I use DelayedLauncher.  All of the not-movable apps have to be on the left, but at least their order is consistent.  It isn’t as powerful as MenuBar ReArranger, but it’s free.

The big thing for me now is, I wish there was a way to get multiXFinder, Day-O, and ML’s Notification Center in the arrangement I want on the far right.  I think it’s Day-O’s fault for not incorporating MenuCracker and forcing itself to the right of multiXFinder, but unfortunately the dev refuses to accept feature requests or release the source code.


Bartender 4 allows me to macro deathcoil and /cheer

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