A full menu bar on a Mac.

Menu bar clutter on Macs is real, but Bartender helps by hiding everything you don’t need and surfacing it when you do. Here’s how to use it to declutter your menu bar for good without losing functionality.

Why Bartender Is So Useful

It sometimes seems like every app adds a menu bar item. Over time, the number of items in our menu bar grows.

The problem is Apple’s solution to decluttering this area isn’t very useful. Sure, you can enable and disable specific items, but there are some you might need occasionally but don’t want to see all the time.

That’s where Bartender comes in. If you only need an item once in a while, you can hide it behind the Bartender icon. You click it to open the Bartender Bar, and there you find all the items you chose to hide.

Bartender is available as a free, four-week trial. You have to pay $15 to continue using the app after that.

How to Hide an Item with Bartender

Right-click the Bartender icon in the menu bar and click “Preferences.”

Click the “Menu Items” tab. All available items are listed on the left of the window. Click an item to select it.

Select an option from the first drop-down box to choose whether you want an item to be shown or hidden.

Bartender offers four options:

  • Show: Shows the item in the menu bar.
  • Hide: Hides the item from the menu bar and moves it to the Bartender Bar.
  • Always Show: Shows the item in the menu bar and Bartender Bar.
  • Always Hide: Hides the item completely. It remains accessible via search.

Some items change depending on different circumstances—the drop-box item changes during the syncing process, for example. Bartender displays items when a change is detected. Check “Show for Updates” to enable the option and select how long you want the item to be visible.

Check "Show for Updates" and select how long you want the item to be visible.

You can also type a text name for the item to use when you search for it.

How to Find or Search for an Item

Items set to “Hide” aren’t visible on the main menu bar, but items set to “Always Hide” don’t even appear in the Bartender Bar. However, you can search for these to access them. The easiest way to do this is to set up Bartender to use a hotkey, so you can quickly access search.

Right-click the icon in the menu bar to open the Bartender preferences and select the “Hot Keys” tab to configure search.

Click the “Enter Hotkey” area and press the key combination you want to use.

Once set, you can quickly bring up Bartender’s search prompt. Give your new hotkey a quick press to test it out.

Type the shortcut, and a search bar appears beneath the Bartender icon. Type an item’s search name and press Return. Press Return again or click the item to interact with it.

This is the quickest way to access hidden items and the only way to access any that are always hidden. You can assign more hotkeys to show hidden items, show all menu bar items, and more.

Inside Bartender’s Settings

Bartender has plenty of options. Some are cosmetic, but others are vital to how the app functions.

First, you can choose whether Bartender opens when you start your Mac. Make sure this is checked—you can find it in the “General” tab—to get the most out of Bartender.

You can also automatically hide hidden items after showing them for the ultimate in clutter reduction. Otherwise, all items remain visible until you click the Bartender icon again.

Options in the Bartender "General" tab.

The Bartender icon doesn’t have to be visible if you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to view hidden items—we discussed those earlier.

To disable the Bartender icon, uncheck the “Visible” checkbox in the “Appearance” tab. You can also customize the Bartender icon when it’s visible.

The options in the Bartender "Appearance" tab.

Bartender keeps track of items, so it can display them when they change. That uses power, which can impact battery life on portable Macs. You can instruct Bartender to check for changes less frequently by checking the “Decrease check for update checking” option in the “Advanced” tab.

Note that Bartender checks for item updates less regularly, and they may not appear immediately if this option is selected.

The options in the Bartender "Advanced" tab.

You might find that an app’s menus hide your menu bar items—particularly on small and low-resolution displays. Check the “Remove Applications menu when needed” checkbox in the same tab to allow Bartender to remove bar items when it needs more room.

Profile Photo for Oliver Haslam Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam is a professional freelance writer with nearly ten years of experience. His work has been published on Macworld, PCMag, 1Password's blog, and other websites. He writes about all things Apple.
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