Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

SwiftBar steps up to provide ambient data in the menu bar

Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.

SwiftBar lets you disable plugins without dragging files around.

One of my favorite features of iOS 14 is its support for home-screen widgets. They’re supported on macOS Big Sur, too, but I don’t bother with widgets there. That’s because there’s already a great place to display information, and it’s visible at all times: the menu bar.

In the past, I’ve used Mat Ryer’s BitBar to put all sorts of information in my menu bar, including the current temperature, air quality, and even live listeners to podcast streams. Unfortunately, it came to my attention a few months ago that Ryer had largely moved on from BitBar development, just as Big Sur arrived and caused a bunch of cosmetic issues. (A BitBar user contributed a quick fix.)

It’s a drag to see a utility you rely on fade away, but I’m happy to report that there’s a spiritual successor to BitBar, SwiftBar, in active development led by Alex Mazanov.

Now Playing, indoor and outdoor air quality, and temperature status.

SwiftBar is written in Swift—it’s in the name!—and aims to compatible with any BitBar plugins. (It worked with all the plug-ins for BitBar that I’d built.) And there are some nice additional features under development, including support for Apple’s SFSymbols icon library. SwiftBar also lets you activate and deactivate plugins from within its preferences window, rather than using the filesystem, which I appreciate.

There are lots of BitBar plugins out there, and if you know any scripting language (literally anything that can execute on macOS — mine use AppleScript, JavaScript, and PHP) you can write plugins yourself in no time.

I have come to rely on having little blobs of information available to me whenever I glance up to my Mac’s menu bar. Thanks to SwiftBar, I don’t need to even consider the prospect that I might have to give that up.

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