Menu Bar Guides

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What is the Menu Bar?

It won’t take long to realize that Mac OS X has only one Menu Bar and that it is always positioned at the top of the screen.  This is in stark contrast to Windows environments where each application window has its own dedicated menu bar.
The single Menu Bar implementation on a Mac may seem illogical to new users but over time they realize that work is most often streamlined and it also assist in identifying the current or most recently used application.

The Menu Bar is where one interacts with an application. It’s also the location where preferences and settings can be viewed and adjusted; a quick view of recent items is displayed, an application can be closed (via a Force Quit), users can log in and out, and a sleep, restart, or a shutdown can be initiated.The menu bar changes with the current in-use application. When you switch between running applications, you’ll notice that the Menu Bar changes to reflect that running application and it’s associated menu items. What you’ll notice about the Menu Bar is that some applications have different menu items. The Menu Bar changes to reflect the capabilities and options of the application.  Give it a try, open at least two applications and switch between them.  Observe how the Menu Bar changes.  As you can see, the first example shows the Menu Bar for Finder followed by the respective Menu Bars for Safari and Mail.All contain “File”, “Edit, and “View” but that is where the similarites end.  The Menu Bar changes to reflect the features of the application.

What are Menulets?

Menulets are of small icons located at the upper right corner of the Menu Bar.  Many Windows users are accustomed to the Windows taskbar that is located on the lower right corner of a Windows screen.  Menulets are similar to the taskbar icons in Windows.
Menulets are also called Menu Extras.  A sample screenshot of two menulets are shown below:
The first two icons starting from the left are for the Mac OS X volume and Bluetooth settings.  These two allow you to control these specific features.  You can easily adjust the volume sent to the speakers by simply clicking on the volume menulet.  The Bluetooth menulet allows you to perform some very quick actions such as shown: 
Menulets are used as shortcuts to access and modify specific settings in the Mac OS X System Preferences configuration area.  You can easily add or remove a menulet by clicking on a checkbox in System Preferences.

The Apple Menu

When you’re logged into the Mac OS X Desktop, you’ll see an Apple icon located at the upper left corner of the screen.  When you click on it a menu opens below and this menu is called the Apple Menu.  It’s perhaps the most important Menu in Mac OS X.  Depending on the version of Mac OS X you’re using, the icon may have a different color.  For example, in Leopard it’s Black where as in Tiger it’s blue.

What is the Apple Menu used for?
The Apple Menu is a key location from where you can find out information about your Mac, run Software Update, enter System Preferences, kick off system life cycle events such as Sleep, Restart, Shutdown, and Log out of your session.

You’ll see the Apple Menu no matter which application you’re running because the Apple Menu never moves or goes away.  It is always located in the upper left corner of the screen.  The following examples show that the location of the Apple Menu remains despite using different application:

apple_menu_01.pngapple_menu_02.png As with any menu, just select the Apple menu to view a listing of available items.  Some of the most importantare:

  • About this Mac – Lists information about the installed OS version, memory and processor
  • Software Update – Brings up the OS X software update application to check if any updates are available for your Mac
  • System Preferences – Takes you to a special system configuration and settings window
  • Dock – allows you to customize the Dock
  • Recent Items – Lists the applications and documents that were recently opened or used.  The number of items listed can be configured in System Preferences.  Launch System Preferences, click Appearance, and then adjust the area called Number of Recent Items as needed.
  • Force Quit – Bring up a window to allow you to forcefully quit an application (ideally used for unresponsive applications)
  • Sleep, Restart, Shutdown – Self explanatory
  • Log Out – Shuts down all running programs and documents (you’ll be asked to save any unsaved items) and returns you to the Mac OS X login screen.