Menu Bar Mac OS X Interface – #4 Noob2Pro 0

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Menu Bar Mac OS X Interface – #4 Noob2Pro

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Yesterday I mentioned about the Dock, the one stop shop for holding applications you are currently using. Today I am going to go through the menu bar. That small grey bar at the top of the screen. As you may have guessed its pretty useful. For the new users it can be quite difficult to get to grip how this bar works. After you get to grips with the basics it can be a very powerful tool.

So What’s This Grey Thing Then?

The menu bar is designed as a way to interact with applications extra features. It is designed as a way to get to features which are not present in the main window of the application. For example the File menu holds all of the features needed to open and close programs. In Windows the equivilent of the menu bar is in every window. On a Mac it is always at the top. For example everything you want is at the very top of the screen, this makes it a lot easier to find and use programs. When you switch applications, the menu bar will change accordingly.

menu bar

Menu items such as File, Edit etc will change depending on the app, however there will always be one constant the Apple menu. This is the same no what what app you have selected. This is a vital tool that every one overlooks. It holds a lot of power, which I think should be utilised more.

In the Apple menu you have basic options such as sleep, log out, shutdown etc. It also has options such as recent items, changing your network location (which I will explain in a later article). The Apple menu is also tided with the drop down menu tided to an applications name. For example, when you click on FireFox, as shown in the image above you will get various basic options such as preferences and the services menu. Note the preferences for an application will nearly always be under the app name. This is a first port of call when you get a new app and want to check out the preferences. The services menu is under this name of an application. This is an important menu which hold a lot of power. So much power it needs a separate post which will be available tomorrow.

All of menu’s for programs will be on the left hand side of the menu bar. On the right hand side is what I like to call the extras bit (it probably has an offical name, I can’t rememeber it). This is where you can store mini programs to increase the functionality of your Mac.

menu bar 2

From right to left we have:

  1. Spotlight, used to search your Mac
  2. Your name, a way to view the user screen.
  3. Language, set to UK on mine. Used to switch keyboard and languages, you don’t really need this one. I don’t no why I have this one installed.
  4. The time
  5. Speakers
  6. Wi-Fi

These options are all system options and can be configured from System Preferences in the Applications folder. The other options are customisable options, which are used to increase functionality. They are either mini programs which I slowly come across and use, or are linked to bigger programs. The right to left again:

  1. iStat CPU, Memory, Network Usage & CPU temperature. (Recommended Install)
  2. Time Machine backup
  3. Peer Guardian, to block untoward connections.
  4. Alarm Clock, to wake me up.
  5. iTunes Controller, to control iTunes.
  6. Tweetie, to send tweets to Twitter.
  7. Adium, instant message client.
  8. Caffine, stop my computer going to sleep.

Numbers 1-6 & 8 are dedicated apps designed to be run from the menu bar. They provide a lot of functionality. Number 6 and 7 are run from a main program and are used to interact with that program. For example when I click on Tweetie (number 6), it will open up the Tweetie app for me.

All menu bar apps are designed to be simple and easy to use, all working with the left click mouse, and provide you with simple bits of information. At first you wont use many menu bar apps, but you will slowly gather a collection. They all come in very useful.

Sometimes this part of the screen gets cluttered. You can move menu bar items with Command + Option key. Press both keys down and then drag the menu option around. Not all menu options will move, which is really annoying. Note that if you drag them off, you either stop the app from running or not show it on the menu bar (as is the case for system apps). If you want to stop any menu bars apps because you have finished with them, there will normally be an option from the drop down list.

The bottom line is this. Left hand side is dedicated to the currently selected app. It has all the drop down options, plus powerful options under the Apple Menu and App Menu (services being one). The right hand side is designed to be used by you to increase functionality whether it be from system apps or ones you have installed. Its designed to be simple and is all run through the left click mouse button.


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