The Bartender Fumble

So the news has come out recently that one of my favorite utilities, Bartender, got sold about three months ago. In the intervening period the new owner is reported to have added user-monitoring Amplitude, but has not announced itself as the new owner or explained their intentions for their stewardship of this damn-useful app.

Ben Surtees, the original developer and prior owner, posted vouching for the new owners, but the new owners still remain silent. This all said, in a past life I dealt often with business transitions and I know how hectic they sometimes get. I’m not running for the escape hatch yet. I’m giving them a week to explain. This isn’t necessarily hijinks, but at this point I believe us customers are entitled to an explanation from the new owners if they want us to keep supporting the app.

Appointments in the Menu Bar

I routinely keep my appointments listed in my menu bar when working on my Mac. As someone who does a lot of block scheduling, this is just one more reminder of where I should be as I work through the day. I also use Bartender to thin down the menu bar so truly useful data, like this, can be visible.

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There are a few ways to pull this off. Fantastical has a setting that lets me put the next appointment in my menu bar with the “Show Upcoming Item in Menu Bar” checkbox in the Appearance settings. Fantastical also gives you a calendar and list of events if you click on the menu bar icon.

There are also some apps to scratch this itch. MeetingBar is my favorite. It gives you plenty of control over exactly what will show up and also a nice scrolling list if you click on the menu bar item. Both MeetingBar and Fantastical work with the meeting services like Teams and Zoom so you can launch meetings from the menu bar. Also, MeetingBar has a cool flip board-inspired icon, and I dig flip boards.

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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.

Bartender’s Five Second Rule

One of my favorite Mac utilities is Bartender, which allows you to create a sub-menu in the menubar. I run an ever-fluctuating set of utilities in my menubar and sometimes they end up filling up the whole bar to such an extent that they get buried under application menus. This is particularly a problem if you are working on a small laptop that doesn’t have much menubar space to begin with.

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Bartender fixes this. Specifically, it lets you choose whether a menubar icon exists in the menubar proper or Bartender’s sub-menu. Using Bartender you can take control of your menubar without giving up any of your beloved menubar applications. It even, remarkably, works with Apple menubar applications.

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An often overlooked feature of Bartender is the ability to promote a menubar application to the menubar proper when it is active. By checking a box in the preferences, you can move a menubar application to the main menubar whenever it’s doing something or for a set period of time after it’s doing something. This is particularly useful for applications like Transporter and Dropbox where you don’t need to see them often but when they are active, it’s nice to have quick access. I call it the five second rule.

If you haven’t tried Bartender yet, you should. It’s a simple app that brings sanity to your geeky menubar. If you have Bartender already, take a look at the preference and enable a few of your own five second rules.