10 really useful menu bar extras for Mac OS X

So you've got your brand-new Mac with a shiny widescreen display; acres of space sits between the Help menu and Apple's handful of default menu extras, begging to be used to the full.

Below, in no particular order, are ten of the very best tiny, indispensable (and mostly free) applications for making the most of your menu bar.

1. iStat menus (donationware)

iStat menus provides succinct monitoring for CPU, memory and drive usage, along with network traffic, all from the menu bar. Drop-down menus provide advanced information and a date and time module betters Apple's clock by a country mile.

iStat menus

2. iTunesMenu (free/$1.99)

Dozens of iTunes notifiers exist, but they usually float over and obscure other apps. iTunesMenu sits in the menu bar, displaying the artist and title of your currently playing track. Optional Growl notification is built-in, and a two-buck shareware fee unlocks hot-key support and playlist selection from iTunesMenu's menu.


3. I Love Stars (free)

Rating tracks in iTunes opens up possibilities for filtering via smart playlists, but few people rate tracks, because it's a hassle. I Love Stars makes the process simple—just click/drag in the menu bar to add/change a rating. Optional alerts for unrated songs and the ability to hide I Love Stars when playing podcasts or user-defined genres add to the greatness.

I love stars

4. Desktoppple (donationware)

If you want to hide your Desktop clutter to take grabs (or because you just can't stand a mess), Desktopple enables you to do so via a single click or prod of a hot-key. Options exist for changing the colour or picture used, and a $17 Pro version adds window clearing, cover sets, menu dimming, multiple screen support and more.


5. Isolator (donationware)

Billed as a 'concentration application', Isolator enables you to block out background apps, to focus on what you're working on. The tint strength and filter can be amended, or you can 'remove' background apps entirely by auto-hiding other apps when a new one is focussed.