How to Show the Current Date in the Mac OS X Menu Bar
TekRevue reader Matt recently switched from Windows to OS X with the purchase of his first Mac. While it will take Matt some time to fully learn the new operating system, one thing he misses from Windows is easy reference to the current date, thanks to the way that Windows displays the date and time in the desktop taskbar by default.
In OS X, the current time is displayed in the menu bar at the top-right corner of the screen, but only the day of the week (i.e., ‘Tue’ for Tuesday) is shown, not the current date (i.e., July 21, 2015). The good news for Matt is that this is only the default display configuration for OS X, and that the user can easily change the way that the date and time are shown on your Mac desktop. Here’s how to show the date in the Mac menu bar.
See the Current Date with a Click
First, here’s a quick tip that new Mac users may not already know. The current date is available in the OS X menu bar, but you have to click on the menu bar clock to see it. When you do, a drop-down menu will appear showing the complete date (i.e., “Tuesday, July 21, 2015”) listed at the top.
This isn’t the solution that Matt is looking for, but it’s an easy way to reference the current date without permanently displaying it in the menu bar.
Show the Current Date in the OS X Menu Bar
To permanently display the current date in the Mac menu bar, launch System Preferences (the gear icon in your Dock) and click on Date & Time. Alternatively, you can get to this same preference window by clicking the clock in your menu bar and selecting Open Date & Time Preferences.
From the Date & Time preference window, click the Clock tab to see the configuration options for your Mac’s menu bar clock. To show the date, find and check the option labeled Show date. You’ll instantly see the abbreviated date (i.e., ‘Jul’ for July) appear in between the day of the week and the current time.
If you’re so inclined, you can further tweak the look of your menu bar date and time display by changing other options in this window. For example, you can display seconds in addition to hours and minutes in your clock, switch between a 12-hour and 24-hour clock format, or hide the “AM/PM” indicators.
The only downside is that, unlike Windows, it is not possible to display the current year in the menu bar (however, the year is always displayed when revealing the current date by clicking on the clock in the menu bar, as described in the previous section). While this likely won’t be a problem for most users, those who want the complete date shown in the menu bar, including year, will have to turn to third party alternatives like iStat Menus. If you use a third party app to display the date or time in the menu bar, you’ll likely want to disable Apple’s menu bar clock entirely, which you can do by unchecking the option labeled Show date and time in menu bar in the Date & Time preferences window.
Once you’ve made your display choices for your Mac menu bar clock, you can close System Preferences. There’s no need to save or reboot; you’ll see your date and clock display change instantly. If you ever wish to further tweak your menu bar clock, or revert to the default configuration, you can do so by returning to System Preferences > Date & Time > Clock.
Other Options for Showing the Date
The steps above are simple and effective, but your Mac’s menu bar has limited space for displaying information, especially for those using smaller, low-resolution displays. Other users simply prefer a minimalistic look with as little in the menu bar as possible. Here are some other options if you want quick access to the current date but don’t want it taking up extra space in the menu bar.
Use the Calendar app in your Dock: Apple’s Calendar app is unique in that its dock icon changes each day to show the current date. If you keep the Calendar app icon in your dock, even if you don’t use the app, you’ll always have a way to quickly reference the current date.
Use Bartender to Hide Other Menu Bar Icons: If you simply don’t have room for the full date in your menu bar, you can use the app Bartender ($15) to hide most or all of them, leaving plenty of room for a complete date and time menu bar widget. There are free apps that offer similar functionality to Bartender — AccessMenuBarApps and Broomstick — but we can’t vouch for them as we haven’t used either extensively.
Check the Date in Notification Center: Apple added a “Today” view to Notification Center in OS X Yosemite. Those running Yosemite or higher can see the complete date displayed at the top of the Today view.
Use a Third Party App: There are several OS X apps that can be configured to display the date in the menu bar, often using less space than Apple’s text-based approach. For example, Fantastical 2 ($40) can be configured to display the current date as a small calendar icon (and you’ll get a pretty great calendar and reminder app, too!)