I’m always curious to see what menu extras other Mac users have on their computer. Menu extras are all those icons on the right side of the menubar in macOS. This month I thought I’d go through which ones I have on my computer and why.
System Menu Extras
The only one on this list I don’t use — only here because you can’t disable it. (Yes you can remove the icon but the space is still there and functional.) I like notifications, but the history and widgets I never use.
I use the Spotlight hotkey on my personal computer a lot. A few years ago I got to the point where trying to keep everything in the Dock was impractical, and with the Yosemite redesign of Spotlight, I ended up switching to it as my launcher. When working on a computer remotely, it’s also much quicker to click on the little magnifying glass than wait for the screen to redraw the Applications folder.
Fast User Switching
Context is everything: who you are signed in as, and who else can be signed in on this device.
Date & Time
Western civilization runs off the globally synchronized clock, but I also forget what day of the week it is more that I care to... being able to glance up is great.
Keyboards & Languages
I’ve been using this since before OS X. Emoji & Symbols give you quick access to almost any possible character, and Keyboard Viewer shows you how to type them.
Moreso than battery level, the lightning bolt showing whether it’s plugged in or not is a welcome visual indicator, now that the charging cables don’t have the green/orange light built in. And when working on a Mac remotely, it’s helpful to see right off the bat if you have enough juice to make it through that hour-long install.
I don’t really use the icon as a visual indicator (the on-screen indicator when changing volume is much better) however, being able to switch audio input and output without launching System Preferences is a great timesaver if you use a headset and/or speakers.
Do I have a strong enough signal? Am I connected to the right network? And most importantly (for me), if I’m using Ethernet, is WiFi off entirely? Nothing like waiting forever for a download when you realize halfway through that it’s going over WiFi even though you’re plugged in.
Everyone with a laptop should have at least one all-traffic VPN configured to use when they’re on public WiFi. Or hotel Ethernet. Or anywhere you don’t explicitly trust everyone else on the same network.
Like Sound, I don’t tend to look at the indicator often, but the menu is great for troubleshooting — for some of the troubleshooting procedures, holding down Option is the only way to get to them.
Unless Apple someday decides to make a Mac with expansion slots in it again, this is the only way I’m going to have three monitors hooked up anymore. (I know it’s not for everyone, but I am so much more efficient with three that it’s worth the expense.)
Third Party Menu Extras
Password managers are awesome. We have a whole blog post about why you should use one.
There are lots of backup tools out there. We’ll have a separate blog post about how to backup and why, but if you just want to set it and forget it, Backblaze is a good choice. (In fact we require it for all of our partners!)
Corporate VPN (firewall-specific)
Unlike the all-traffic VPN connection mentioned above designed to keep your every packet from prying eyes, this one is designed to access resources you would normally have to be on-site to access. And yes, they can both be used simultaneously.
This is my second most used hotkey after Spotlight. This little tool satiates my perfectionism when managing windows. Super quick to use, works on multiple monitors, never run into a bug with it.
Most of the time when I copy text to the clipboard, I only want the text… none of the formatting that may have been styling the original source. FormatMatch lets you choose whether you copy just text or everything.
For the paranoid, it’s nice to have tools that tell you what other programs are trying to so on your computer. These three by Objective See give me a little peace of mind about what’s going on under the hood.
The Objective See apps monitor software, iStat Menus monitors hardware. Kind of like the tachometer and fuel efficiency gauges on a car... not necessary for casual driving, but can help you get the best performance.
Hopefully you found at least one new tip or tool you can use to improve your day to day workflow. If you’d like to discuss other ways you or your business can increate your productivity using IT, reach out to us to set up a consultation!