The best solutions are often the simplest. Time after time, Apple has unveiled revolutionary new input methods that seem obvious in retrospect but are ingenious in their simplicity; things like the mouse, the click wheel, and multitouch are so deceptively simple they have instantly changed the way we approach the respective interfaces they control, bringing faster and more efficient interactions with the various elements on the screen.
That’s precisely why menu bar apps are my favorite kind of utility. Over the years I’ve probably used hundreds of them, and as you can see in the screenshots below, there are no less than a dozen of them at the top of my screen at any given time (not counting the ones Apple lets me put there). Their beauty lies in their innate simplicity, putting important bits of information and controls in my line of sight and cutting down on the time I need to spend navigating complex interfaces.
Mac App Store link) took the very presumptions I had about menu bar apps and turned them on their head. With the soul of an iOS app and the heart of an applet, the basic timer utility doesn’t just boil down a series of steps into a single click; it extracts the very essence of simplicity in such a way that will change the way you approach your Mac’s menu bar.
When you click the Gestimer icon for the first time, nothing about it prepares you for how remarkable it is. A small screen will tell you that there are no reminders set and you’ll see a settings icon and a plus symbol that lets you to start a new timer. But selecting it won’t open a dial or a slider to adjust the duration; instead you’ll see an animated tutorial of how to properly use Gestimer. And that’s when your mind will be blown.
To set a timer, you drag the icon like you would a pullstring to raise a window shade. The longer you drag it the more time you’ll get for your reminder, and letting go at the desired interval starts the countdown. You can set as many concurrent timers as you’d like (and trust me, you’ll use any excuse to do so), each of them can be named to easily differentiate between them.
And that’s pretty much all it does. You can’t edit a timer after it’s been created or pause it once it starts, and the menu bar icon doesn’t differentiate between a running timer and an idle one. And while it saves an archive of completed timers, you can’t restart one or make it recurring.
But Gestimer’s simple sophistication is more than enough to make up for its utter lack of features. I’ve never used a menu bar app that let me interact with it in such a direct way, but it feels like one those simple solutions that seems so obvious I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of it before.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.