A Beginner’s Guide to Status Menus

If you are new to Mac, you may not have yet explored or customized the status menus. These are also known as menu bar icons and are links to functionality in System Preferences or third-party extensions. You can rearrange or remove status menus. New status menus can be added by other applications in System Preferences.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to Status Menus.

If you're new to Mac you may not have yet explored the Status Menus. These are the little icons at the top right corner of your Mac. They're in the Menu Bar. They're sometimes called the menu bar icons or status icons. What you see is going to be different than what I see because what appears here depends on your System Preference settings and also which apps you have installed.

So the simplest one, and the one you're most likely to have as well as me, is the Volume control. Here you click on it and it gives you volume control. It also gives you the ability to select an output device. You can also jump right to Sound Preferences which opens System Preferences right to the Sound Preference pane. A lot of these will allow you to jump right into System Preferences with the matching System Preference pane to whatever the icon is. For instance, this one is for Displays and allows me to choose an AirPlay display. I have three Apple TV's here and I can actually send the output to one of those three but also allows me to jump to Open Displays Preferences.

Now with any of these that are tied to System Preferences, if you go to the preference you'll notice that there is a little checkbox for the menu bar icon there. I can turn it off and remove it from the menu bar. So if you don't see Sound there, you may want to go into System Preferences and see if this is maybe unchecked. It's the same for a lot of these. For instance this one is for Bluetooth and I can Open Bluetooth Preferences and here I can turn it on and off.

Now in addition to being able to turn it on and off you can rearrange these. I can hold the Command key on my keyboard, not the Control key but the Command key, and drag anyone of these left or right to rearrange them and put them in the order I want. I can also Command, click, drag down, and once I see the x there I can release to get rid of it. So it's a quick way to get rid of it.

Now some of these aren't from System Preferences. They are custom ones added by different apps. For instance, this one here is from the Dropbox Cloud Service. It adds it here and is quick access to a lot of Dropbox functions. This one is a special little webcam settings preference that I've downloaded and installed and helps me control my webcam for these. There are various other ones. This one helps me control the screen capture software that I'm using to make this tutorial. So you can add these. You can find apps in the Mac App Store, for instance, that have these Status Menus as a simple way to add functionality to your Mac rather than having a full app interface. It's just one of these little things.

Now you've got a very special one here in the date. The date and time can be customized. So I click on it here. I get the full date. I get the time up there. I can switch to analog or digital clocks. But in the preferences for Date & Time, under Clock, I can highly customize what's there. For instance, I can have it flash the time separators. Have it show the seconds. All sorts of things like that. So some of these have very special things like that. This one is also special where you've got the ability to switch between users. It's called Fast User Switching. You can turn that on in Users & Groups Preferences in System Preferences.

Then the three to the right, they are a little different than all the rest. This one activates the Spotlight search which you can do with Command Space as well. This one activates Siri and you can ask Siri questions. Usually a keyboard shortcut is easier. This one is for Notifications. You can look at Today's notifications or Notifications in general. You can even scroll down in Notifications here to turn on Do Not Disturb mode.

So these three are kind of special and a little different than all the rest. The rest are highly customizable, movable, and on the whole they are very useful which is kind of the definition of why they are there. They're there because they are useful functions that you may want to use no matter which app you're using. No matter what you're doing on your Mac. Volume control being a great example. You may want to change the volume no matter what it is that you're doing on the rest of your desktop.

So, take a look at your Status Menus. See what you've got. Use the Command key to rearrange them. Maybe get rid of some ones that you don't think you'll need up there. Then maybe look through System Preferences to see if there are ones that you'd like to add that aren't there right now.