5 essential menu bar tools for Apple Mac for free

There are many utilities that add extra features and functions to the Mac menu bar, but which should you choose? Here are five free menu bar tools that provide useful extras for macOS.

The Mac already has several menu bar items, like the clock, Spotlight search, Wi-Fi and battery. Several more can be enabled in System Settings, like Bluetooth, Time Machine, speaker, display and accessibility features.

Some of these menu bar items provide lots of useful information, like the Wi-Fi icon for example. Hold down Option/Alt and click it to see a lot of network details. At the other extreme, the clock does very little apart from show the time and date.

There are better alternatives to some of the built-in menu bar items and there are others that add extra features not available in macOS. Here are just a few examples found in the Mac App Store. To get these menu bar tools, just search for the name and then install them.

1: Folder Peek

Folder Peek menu bar utility on the Apple Mac
Folder Peek menu bar utility

Folder Peek is a great free tool in the Mac App Store. Go and search for it and install it. Click the eyes icon in the menu bar and then select the Add Folder option. An open/save type of window opens and you can select any folder on the Mac. It is added to the menu bar.

There are two interfaces to choose from and each folder you add can be a separate icon in the menu bar, or the interface in the screenshot can be selected and this shows one menu bar icon with folders as a sub-menu. You can add multiple folders.

Click the menu bar icon and you can browse the contents of the folders and it is useful to add your most used folders, like Documents and whatever else you often use. Mouse over a folder and its contents is displayed, which may consist of folders and files. It is a bit like having Finder in the menu bar.

Let the mouse hover over a file and a preview is shown if possible. Image files show a large preview for example, and there are file details like created date, last accessed date, file size and so on. There is also a menu of actions, like Open With, Move to Trash, Copy and Share. This is a great utility for the menu bar.

2: Better MenuBar

Better MenuBar menu bar utility for Apple Mac
Better Menubar system monitor for Mac

Better Menubar is a system monitoring and information utility for the Mac menu bar. Several items can be shown in the menu bar and this is a useful way to monitor what is going on inside the Mac. You can choose to show any or all of memory usage, CPU usage and battery usage bars.

To the right of the green battery bar is the percentage and the time remaining. The macOS battery indicator does not show time remaining, so this could be used to replace it.

The final item in the menu bar item is the network/internet upload and download speeds. You can see activity at a glance and see how fast the data is being transferred.

Clicking the menu bar item shows a panel containing a bit more information, like battery status and cycle count, Bluetooth devices and so on. This small, lightweight system monitor for the menu bar is worth trying. It doesn’t have a great score in the App Store, but I found it to be OK.

3: Mini Calendar

The macOS clock in the menu bar is useful and it has an option to show the date. Mini Calendar goes one step further and it shows not only the date, but also a calendar when it is clicked. It can save you having to run the macOS Calendar app to check dates or use widgets.

Mini Calendar menu bar add-on for the Apple Mac
Mini Calendar for the Mac menu bar

This is so simple, but so useful. It does even more and there are many options in the app preferences. It can show the time in 12 or 24 hour clocks, seconds, date, and day of the week.

A Dock icon is optional and it shows the month and day. When clicked it shows a calendar like the menu bar item. There is also an option to show a desktop calendar. This is like a semi-transparent widget on the desktop and it can be made to always appear on top, so it is always visible.

You might want to replace the standard macOS time/date display with this more useful version.

4: Hidden Bar

Hidden Bar menu bar add-on for Apple Mac
Hidden Bar menu bar manager for Mac

Hidden Bar adds a separator to the menu bar. Everything to the right of the separator is always visible, but everything to the left, including the app’s own I icon, auto-hides. You can even set it to auto-hide after a set number of seconds. It is similar to the way the Dock can be set to automatically hide when not being used. Here it works with menu bar items.

It flips between < which is when items are hidden and > when items are visible. Click it to show or hide items.

A menu bar item can be moved from one position to another by holding down the Cmd key and then clicking and dragging it. Just drag the items to the left of the > to put them into the auto-hide area. When they are not being used, they are hidden and there are no distractions. Click the > and they and the items are accessible.

It is simple, but effective when there are a lot of menu bar items on a small screen, such as a MacBook. It is not needed on an iMac because the menu bar is very wide anyway and space is not a problem.

5: Shortcuts in Menu Bar Lite

Shortcuts in Menu Bar Lite menu bar add-on for Apple Mac
Shortcuts in Menu Bar Lite

Shortcuts in Menu Bar Lite enables you to create a menu containing useful items. They are organised into sections – Websites, Folders and files, Applications and Quick notes. Only two items per section are allowed in this free Lite version, but you can remove this restriction for around the price of a coffee.

In the app preferences, you can enter URLs for the websites, select folders or files, and choose applications. Notes are created on the fly.

The Lite app is a bit limited, but you can see how useful this app could be with half a dozen items in each category. It provides fast and easy access to the things you need most, like websites, folders and apps. Click the menu bar icon, click the item you want and it’s there on the screen. It automatically opens Finder, Safari or app.

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