Take Control of Your Mac’s Menubar

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Take Control of Your Mac’s Menubar

You Control ($29.95, www.yousoftware.com/control or downloadable from our Software Vault) is one of those apps that you might not have realized you needed. But then you install it, use it daily, and wonder how you ever lived without it.


In a nutshell, You Control lets you customize the OS X menubar so you have instant access to a variety of handy tidbits - from weather to specific files and apps to controlling iTunes tracks. We'll show you how to make your menubar work harder with You Control. (And, don't forget: You can download a 15-day free trial from the Software Vault.)


1. Say Yes to Preset Options
When you first launch You Control, you are given an option to prepopulate the module pane with a selection of commonly used items, including Address Book, Calendar, Mail, File System, and more. Go ahead and choose that option - it speeds up the setup process.


2. Start Customizing
You Control divides the menubar into four quadrants: Menu Bar Left, Menu Bar Right, Corner Menus, and Hot Key Menus. Left and Right are somewhat arbitrary: On our menubar, the only thing dividing left from right is the Adium icon that appears when we've got Adium running - of course, it might look different for you, depending on how many apps you've got set to display in the menubar.


Starting with the Left and Right areas, decide what types of things you want to have instant access to by clicking on an icon or a text string. We chose to put System Preferences and our Applications list in the Right Menu Bar area. We put iTunes controls, a weather module, a world clock, and link to iCal in the Left Menu Bar area. To add a module to any of the available quadrants, just drag it from the Modules pane into the Menus pane in the order you'd like it to appear.


After dragging a new module where you want it, modify its appearance and behavior under the Settings tab. Here we've added iCal and identified it with a calendar icon by clicking the From Palette button next to Menu Text.


3. Get to Know the Corner Menus
Corner Menus are a cool way to quickly access files and other items you want regular access to but don't want to have to see on the right side of the menubar. In our case, we're always opening files located on a shared server. Adding access to a shared server is not exactly drag and drop in You Control, but it's pretty easy to uncover the necessary file path with a bit of Command-I-style detective work.


First, click on the arrow next to Corner Menus to expose what you've got listed there already. We deleted a few of the options You Control had added automatically, just to clean things up a bit (and since we preferred to have Apps and System Preferences in the right side of the menubar). Next, to add instant access to our server volume, we dragged a new File System module into the Corner Menus section, placing it at the bottom of the list. We named it MacLife, then went to hunt down the file path we needed to type into the Path window. To do that, we opened a Finder window, and in the sidebar (where we already had the MacLife volume on our main server listed), we right-clicked MacLife and selected Info. The resulting Info window provided us with what we needed to type in the path under Settings in You Control (see screen shot below).


Using info from the Spotlight info box (right) that popped up when we right-clicked on the network volume and selected Get Info, we determined the file path for our network volume, which we typed into the Path box in the You Control Settings window (left).


Now, when we click on the corner menu, we have instant access to the server volumes. What a time-saver.


4. Stay Cool with Hot Keys
If you're like us, you like to avoid sweeping mouse movements as much as possible. (Does that make us lazy? Whoops.) In You Control, hot keys are a lazy mouser's best bud. Rather than adding a much-used item to the menubar or corner menu, you could set up a hot key instead (or in addition to) giving it a spot at the top of the screen. After adding an iCal bug to the menubar, it occurred to us that it would be easier to make it hot key, so we dragged its icon down to Hot Key, which brought up a pop-up prompting us to choose the key combo.


Be sure to avoid assigning already used keyboard shortcuts to your hot keys.


NOTE: You Control does NOT tell you whether the key combo you've selected is already in use on your system, so you should check this (go to System Preferences > Hardware > Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts) before you go assigning hot keys willy-nilly.


We assigned the iCal item its own hot key, and now when we press Shift-Control-L, up pops our to-dos and appointments for the day.


The module you've selected will appear wherever your cursor is when you press its Hot Key.




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