Managing Menu Bar Icons

The menu bar icons on the right side of your screen are added there by System Preferences, system extensions and apps. You control what is there by looking at those various sources and switching them on or off in the preference screen or app that owns the icon. You can move them around by dragging with the Command key held down. Order can be important as the leftmost icons may not be visible when running some apps.

Video Transcript
On the right side of the menu bar on your Mac you've got a set of menus that are usually represented, instead of by text, by little icons. Thus they're called menu bar icons or sometimes menu bar buttons. These special menus persist no matter which app you're using. They're always there and they do special functions.

Like, for instance, the volume one here allows you to change the volume and also choose different devices for output like speakers or headphones, etc. So these do different things but how do you decide what goes there and how can you arrange. So for the most part these are all connected either to an app, some sort of system extension, or something in System Preferences. You can make them appear or go away depending on which type of thing they are.

For instance, the volume control here is part of System Preferences and you can get to it by going either to Sound Preferences right there in the menu or you could go to System Preferences and to Sound. Either way it will take you to the same place. So here in System Preferences, Sound you'll see at the bottom Show Volume in Menu Bar. If I deselect that you can see it goes away. So in the case of volume control this is how you make this appear and disappear. This is true for anything else related to something in System Preferences.

For instance in System Preferences if we look at Keyboard and we take a look at Input Sources we can see there Show Input menu in menu bar. Which is this right here. So I can get rid of that there. So for those it's connected depending upon which of System Preferences is accessed by that menu item.

Now if this comes from a special app like say here's the one for Jumpcut which allows you to save multiple clipboard items. Then you can usually get rid of it by either quitting that app it's got running in the background or you can go to Preferences and sometimes there's the ability to change what appears there. So in this case in Appearance you can change which icon appears. Sometimes you can make it go away but sometimes the only way to make it go away is to actually Quit the app. So I'll Quit Jumpcut here and you can see it disappears because the entire purpose of that app is to put that minibar icon up there. So that makes sense.

A lot of these others work the same way because they've been added by different apps and their extensions. Now you can rearrange these by holding the Command key on your keyboard and dragging them left or right. You can put them in any order you want. You can go and do that for anything except the last one which brings up the Notifications. That always has to be on the right. But everything else including Siri here, Spotlight, this is Fast User Switching, to switch between users, this is the date. All that stuff. Everything can be rearranged as you like it to appear and which order you like.

Now usually it's just a matter of preference. Sometimes it's important because if you're dealing with a crowded menu bar, like maybe you're running say Microsoft word has a huge menu bar with lots of commands across here. On a smaller screen basically you're going to sacrifice the left most icons here. They'll go away in order to make room for those menu items. So if there is something you need to access when you're running Microsoft word you may actually move that more to the right than something that you rarely would access if you're using word.

Also you can use this technique to get rid of some of them. So, for instance, here's the Accessibility Preferences. I can go to Accessibility Preferences in there and turn it off with a checkbox. But I can also Command, Drag it down and out and you can see it changes to an X with the cursor there and if I release it goes away with a little shwish sound.

Comments: 13 Responses to “Managing Menu Bar Icons”

    7/5/17 @ 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the tips! But im having an issue here, when I click on the sound button in the menu bar I just get the volume slider ONLY. No choosing output option or sound in sys preferences. I’m on macOS 10.12.5, was you on the same version in this vid?

    7/6/17 @ 2:33 am

    nassa: Try holding the Option key and clicking on the Sound icon.

    7/6/17 @ 6:51 am

    Clicking the option key works. But why should I if its working for you and others without clicking the option key? Is it a bug in my OS? I bought my MBP with El Capitan and upgraded thru the appstore to sierra 10.12.5 without any issue.

    7/6/17 @ 6:59 am

    nassa: Showing volume only is normal. That’s what I see on my MBP too. Only if you have multiple output devices available will it show you more options.

    7/6/17 @ 7:07 am

    Aha… makes sense. Thanks!

    Debbie Shapiro
    7/6/17 @ 7:12 am

    Can I make the menu bar icons larger?

    7/6/17 @ 7:13 am

    Debbie: No, but if you are having trouble seeing them, then you are probably having trouble elsewhere too, and may want to adjust your Display settings to make everything larger.

    7/6/17 @ 11:01 am

    Thanks, Gary. Now I’ve cleaned up my menu bar! However, I would like to remove the modem icon (looks like a telephone) from the menu bar. When I click on Open Network Preferences, it takes me to the wi-fi preferences. I can’t find modem preferences anywhere.

    7/6/17 @ 2:08 pm

    Jim: Go to System Preferences, Network. Look on the left side and you will see a list of connection typed. Select one that is a modem. Then the checkbox at the bottom will change to “Show modem status in menu bar” and you can uncheck it.

    Linda Taylor
    7/6/17 @ 5:31 pm

    Thanks Gary! I like my new menu bar arrangement much better now. I have something simple to share at the senior center meeting next Sat. Yippee…

    7/9/17 @ 11:26 pm

    The Fantastical icon is on the far left. It disappears when an app is open. I want to move it to the right because I often add a reminder for meetings when Safari is open. Holding command did not budge the icon. I tried moving the Bluetooth icon left and when it went left of fantastical it disappeared with a “poof”. The keyboard icon did the same thing. Both added back to the right of Fantastical. :-(

    Lee Taylor
    9/7/17 @ 4:40 pm

    Nothing happens when I hold the “Command” key down! Am running OS X 10.11.6 (El Capitan).

    9/7/17 @ 4:58 pm

    Lee: El Capitan is too old for this to work.

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