Bartender 2

There once was a dark time for all Mac users where the menubar threatened to take over our computers. The march of applications with handy menubar icons seemed unstoppable while at the same time Apple started making laptop screens smaller and smaller. I remember having menubar icons that disappeared under application menus never to be heard from again.

Then came Bartender. Bartender seemed to bend the laws of physics, letting you move and adjust your menubar icons. Just hold down the Command key and start re-organizing your menubar to your preference. This even works on those sacrosanct Apple menubar icons like Airport and Battery Life. 

Moreover, Bartender gives you the ability to add a second list of less important icons that you can access with a single mouse click. It’s like putting menubar icons in a drawer that you can open at any time. Bartender even has a preference that allows you to elevate certain menubar icons out of its drawer and into the primary menubar whenever they are active.

I don’t know a single nerd that does not love Bartender. It gives you the freedom to add menubar icons to your Mac with reckless abandon while at the same time keeping your menubar clear and clean.

Today sees the release of Bartender 2. Like its predecessor, Bartender 2 adds a secondary menubar to your Mac where you can pile on the menu bar icons to be shown or hidden upon your request. I’ve been running the new version on my El Capitan test machine for a few weeks and it has some really nice improvements over the prior version:

Keyboard Navigation

You can now navigate your menubar via keyboard navigation. Bartender 2 lets you set a custom keyboard shortcut (I use Control-Option-Command-B) that opens up the Bartender menubar and highlights an icon. You can then use the arrow keys to navigate around the menubar icons both in the Bartender menubar and the primary menubar above. Once you find the one you want, hit the return key and you’re in business. This takes a lot longer to describe than to actually perform. If you like to keep your fingers on the keyboard, being able to get into the menubar with the keyboard combination is worth the price of admission alone.


If your fixation with menubar icons is truly unhealthy, you may have so many that it is difficult to find the one you are looking for. Sadly, that’s been me. Bartender 2 fixes this problem by letting you search your menubar icons. To do so, start typing your search phrase when you’re in the Bartender menubar and the application does the rest for you.

New Paint and New Engine

With the imminent release of El Capitan, Bartender 2 also got many improvements to match the user interface direction that started with Yosemite and a lot of work went under the hood to add these new features while still working within Apple’s System Integrity Protection in El Capitan.

If you have ever faced any friction with managing your menubar icons, Bartender is the solution you’re looking for. With my 12 inch MacBook, I simply could not live without it. Bartender 2 is a paid upgrade. If you bought the original version, the upgrade is $7.50. If you’re buying a new, it is $15. You can learn more at the developer’s website.