six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Jason Snell for Macworld

The power of the Mac menu bar ↦

The menu bar at the top of the screen has been with the Mac since the beginning. It’s one of the defining characteristics of the Mac, one that even Microsoft didn’t dare duplicate—in Windows, the menu bars go on the top of windows, not at the top of the screen. The Mac menu bar is a constant, a north star.

Except… things have been getting a little weird lately. Last year, Apple added an “Automatically hide and show the menu bar” feature to the General pane of System Preferences. When that preference is selected—or you’re in full-screen mode—the menu bar only appears when you move your mouse to the top of the screen. It feels spectacularly wrong to me, but then, I’ve been using a Mac since George Bush was President. (The first one.)

Apple also recently added a new “Use dark menu bar and Dock” mode, which flips the normally black-on-white menu bar into a design only Darth Vader could love: white text on a black background. It’s not my cup of tea, and flipping that setting doesn’t change the style of any of the other black-on-white windows on my Mac’s screen, but if you like it, more power to you.

Even as someone who has committed plenty of keyboard shortcuts to memory, I find the menu bar incredibly valuable. And while it’s almost always in the faces of every Mac user, it’s too often ignored. The menu bar, like the Utilities folder, is a place that make you a more efficient and informed Mac user.

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