See the menu-bar icons in Figure 4-10? Apple calls them Menu Extras, but Mac fans on the Internet have named them menulets. Each menulet is both an indicator and a menu that provides direct access to certain settings in System Preferences. One lets you adjust your Mac’s speaker volume; another lets you change the screen resolution; yet another shows you the remaining power in your laptop battery; and so on.
To make the various menulets appear, you generally visit a certain pane of System Preferences (Chapter 9) and turn on a checkbox called, for example, “Show volume in menu bar.” Here’s a rundown of the various Apple menulets you may encounter, complete with instructions on where to find the magic on/off checkbox for each.
Along the way, you’ll discover that secondary, hidden features lurk in many of these menulets, if you happen to know the secret: Press the Option key.
The following descriptions indicate the official, authorized steps for installing a menulet. There is, however, a folder on your hard drive that contains 24 of them in a single window, so you can install one with a quick double-click. To find them, open your hard drive→System→Library→CoreServices→Menu Extras folder.
AirPlay lets you send the Mac’s screen image to a TV, provided you have an Apple TV (details on Arrangement Tab (Multiple Monitors)). This menulet turns blue when you’re projecting, and its menu lets you turn AirPlay on or off. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Displays→Display tab.
AirPort lets you turn your WiFi (wireless networking) circuitry on or off, join existing wireless networks, and create your own private ones. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Network. Click Wi-Fi.
Battery shows how much power remains in your laptop’s battery, how much time is left to charge it, whether it’s plugged in, and more. When you click the icon to open the menu, you see how many actual hours and minutes are left on the charge. You can also choose Show Percentage to add a percentage-remaining readout (43%) to the menu bar.
Sadly, Mavericks no longer lets you put the time-remaining display right in the menu bar. On the other hand, the Battery menu now shows something that can be even more useful: a list of the most power-hungry open programs (“Apps Using Significant Energy”). That’s handy when you’re trying to eke out every last drop of battery life for your laptop. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Energy Saver.
If you Option-click the Battery menulet, you get to see the status of your battery’s health. A new Condition command appears. It might say, for example, “Condition: Normal,” or “Service Battery,” “Replace Soon,” or “Replace Now.” Of course, we all know laptop batteries don’t last forever; they begin to hold less of a charge as they approach 500 or 1,000 recharges, depending on the model.
Is Apple looking out for you, or just trying to goose the sale of replacement batteries? You decide.
Bluetooth connects to Bluetooth devices, “pairs” your Mac with a cellphone, lets you send or receive files wirelessly (without the hassle of setting up a wireless network), and so on. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Bluetooth.
You can Option-click this menulet to see three additional lines of nerdy details about your Bluetooth setup: the Bluetooth software version you’re using, the name of your Mac (which is helpful when you’re trying to make it show up on another Bluetooth gadget), and its Bluetooth MAC [hardware] address.
Clock is the menu-bar clock that’s been sitting at the upper-right corner of your screen from Day One. Click it to open a menu where you can check today’s date, convert the menu-bar display to a tiny analog clock, and so on. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Date & Time. On the Clock tab, turn on “Show date and time in menu bar.”
Displays adjusts screen resolution. On Macs with a projector or second monitor attached, it lets you turn screen mirroring on or off—a tremendous convenience to anyone who gives PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Displays→Display tab.
You’ll discover that its wording changes—“Open Combo Drive,” “Close DVD-ROM Drive,” “Eject [Name of Disc],” or whatever—to reflect your particular drive type and what’s in it at the moment.
Messages is a quick way to let the world know, via the Messages application (Chapter 20) and the Internet, that you’re away from your keyboard, or available and ready to chat. Via the New Message command, it’s also a quick way to open Messages itself. To find the Show checkbox: Open Messages; it’s in your Applications folder. Choose Messages→Preferences→General.
Remote Desktop is a program, sold separately, that lets teachers or system administrators tap into your Mac from across a network. In fact, they can actually see what’s on your screen, move the cursor around, and so on. The menulet lets you do things like send a message to the administrator. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Sharing, and then click Remote Management.
Script Menu lists a variety of useful, ready-to-run AppleScript programs. To find the Show checkbox: Open the AppleScript Editor program (in your Applications Utilities folder). Choose AppleScript Editor→Preferences→General.
Text Input switches among different text input modes. For example, if your language uses a different alphabet, like Russian, or thousands of characters, like Chinese, this menulet summons and dismisses the alternative keyboards and input methods you need. Details on Formats. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Language & Text→Input Sources.
Time Machine lets you start and stop Time Machine backups (see Chapter 6). To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Time Machine.
Universal Access offers simple on/off status indicators for features that are designed to help with visual, hearing, and muscle impairments. Chapter 9 has a rundown of what they do. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Universal Access.
User identifies the account holder (Chapter 13) who’s logged in at the moment. To make this menulet appear (in bold, at the far-right end of the menu bar), turn on fast user switching, which is described on Fast User Switching.
VPN stands for virtual private networking, which allows you to tap into a corporation’s network so you can, for example, check your work email from home. You can use the menulet to connect and disconnect, for example. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Network. Click the name of your VPN.
WWAN is useful only if you’ve equipped your Mac with one of those glorious cellular modems, sold by Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. These little USB sticks get you onto the Internet wirelessly at near-cable-modem speeds (in big cities, anyway)—no WiFi required—for $60 a month. And this menulet lets you start and stop that connection. To find the Show checkbox: Open System Preferences→Network. Click the name of your cellular modem.
A few other items lurk in the Menu Extras folder: PPPoE, Ink, IrDA, ExpressCard, and so on. They’re relics of an earlier age, when laptops had card slots and infrared lenses.