Menulets: Apple's Little Helpers

By Graham K. Rogers

Earlier Mac operating systems had a number of ways that allowed a user to control operations including the Apple menu and the control strip. With OSX, the former had its functions reduced; the control strip disappeared and was in part replaced by the enhanced Dock. There was, and is, the menubar.

On the left side of the menubar is the menu for the current program. To the right are menubar icons: menulets (or menu extras). Operating these allow instant access to functions that could otherwise be hidden in the system preferences or in unactivated programs. A quick click and the user is in charge.

Some icons cannot be moved but with others, holding down the Apple key and clicking, allows the icon to be moved; or it may be dropped onto the desktop to disappear like a Dock icon.

From left to right, here are my menulets and how they work:


There is also an AppleScript icon that I found in the AppleScript folder -- scripts are something like a DOS batch file (remember those?). Moving the Script Menu folder to the menubar gives a selection of pre-written scripts to play with.

(One icon I do not have on my home computer -- will Broadband ever arrive? -- is the Ethernet icon for showing PPoE status (Point to Point on Ethernet). This would only be valid where Ethernet connections were in use.)

Other menu extras are for the Airport network, battery condition (on a laptop), and a PC Card menu. The official Apple ones are all kept in that Menu Extras folder. According to David Pogue (Mac OSX: The Missing Manual), if you boot into System 9 these menu-folders can be opened and the .tiff file in each can be altered in a graphics program.

Although I have 16 menulets (I like the way they work), we are getting a bit squeezed for space and some disappear if I am using an application with a wider menu. Those icons with text displays exacerbate this problem.

I like the way that the menulets give me flexibility in operating the computer; and I like the way they give me quick access to make operating changes and to System Preferences.

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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