Monitor the memory and battery in the menu bar on your Mac

On test are two menu bar utilities that provide useful system information. One shows the battery status and health and the other shows memory usage. Both are free and provide useful info.

Most applications on the Apple Mac run in a window on the desktop, lik browsers, word processors, games, and so on. There is a class of apps that do not run in a window and instead they add an item to the menu bar. The menu bar item can provide useful information and it can display menus and windows to provide extra features and functions.

Here are two examples of menu bar utilities and they are from the same developer. If you install one, you are asked if you want to install the other. As they are both free, then why not? The apps are available in the Mac App Store.

Memory Monitor - Speed up your system with a simple click

Click the menu bar icon and a panel is displayed that shows the free memory, app memory, compressed memory, wired memory and cache. A large circular graphic at the top shows visually how the memory is being used.

In the past I have criticised apps like this for displaying misleading information. People look at the free memory, see that there is very little left and assume that their Mac is about to grind to a halt or that it has some serious problem.

Memory Monitor for OS X

Memory Monitor has one of the best displays I have seen and if you mouse over the different types of memory usage, there is a very clear explanation of what it is and what it means. This is excellent.

Even better is the memory pressure indicator in the centre of the graphic. Memory pressure is something Apple displays in Activity Monitor and it is actually the best indicator to look at to see whether your Mac is short of memory.

When the memory pressure is low, the Mac is OK, but if it ever swings to the high end of the scale it means that the Mac is so short of memory that it is negatively impacting performance. You need to upgrade the RAM in the Mac.

There is a large Optimise button in the centre of the graphic and this will free up memory. There are various ways of doing this, such as by reducing the cache and compressing memory. It can make space available for a large application to load and run.

Memory isn’t something you need to worry about unless you are using a lot of it, such as by running virtual machines and other memory-hungry applications. This app can help. If you just browse the web and check your email, then you don’t need this app.

Title: Memory Monitor - Speed up your system with a simple click
Price: Free
Developer: Rocky Sand Studio Ltd
Size: 1.9 MB
OS X: 10.7 or later, 64-bit processor
Verdict: A good memory monitor and a useful tool.

Battery Monitor - Health, Status and Battery Usage Information

OS X provides a menu bar item to show the battery status and it provides additional information if your hold down the option key when clicking it. If you prefer, you can hide the OS X battery indicator by going to System Preferences, Energy Saver, and use Battery Monitor instead.

The default is to show an icon, but clicking it, then clicking the menu button and then clicking Preferences enables you to add the percentage battery and time remaining on battery power. Both of these are useful, although you may prefer to just show your favourite. Space on the menu bar is limited on some MacBooks.

Battery Monitor for OS X

Click the battery icon and a panel displays the current battery level and the battery capacity. The capacity falls over time as the battery becomes weaker through use. This indicator tells you the battery condition. You won’t see a daily change, but every six months or so will see it drop by a percentage point.

The current battery charge is displayed and in the bottom right corner is the hours and minutes remaining on battery power.

Clicking the i button in the top right corner switches to a new information panel and it shows the capacities as figures, the battery temperature and power usage, and battery condition.

This is another excellent utility and it beats the OS X battery monitor.

Title: Battery Monitor - Health, Status and Battery Usage Information
Price: Free
Developer: Rocky Sand Studio Ltd
Size: 1.3 MB
OS X: 10.7 or later, 64-bit processor
Verdict: It’s free and it does the job well. What more do you want?

Add the Today widgets

Both of these apps can be added to the Today tab of the notifications panel. Click the notifications button in the top right corner of the screen and click the button down at the bottom of the panel.

Look for Memory Monitor and Battery Monitor in the list of items on the right. Click the plus button to the right of them to add them to the Today section.

Today widgets - Memory Monitor and Battery Monitor

Now whenever you open the notifications panel, you can see the battery and memory information.



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