Lets get this out in the open. My feelings on the Apple Menu border on obsession.

There, that feels much better.

Apple doesn't get Apple
I have been using Macs for years, and the one thing that surprises me more than anything else is the fact that Apple doesn't seem to understand the power and usefulness of the Apple Menu. In Mac OS 7/8/9 it is a dumping ground for a bizarre collection of icons which completely go against one of the primary rules of ease of use (when the user has to search through a list more than ten items long, it is faster to start dividing that list up and using submenus).

How messy is it? This image (below) is the default menu for Mac OS 8.6 (Blue Box) on one of my systems before I started working on it.

As a service person of Macs, one of the first things I do is clean up the Apple Menu. Given that Apple had no idea how to use it, I'm glad (to a degree) that they removed their use of it in Mac OS X. There, by default, it at least isn't embarrassing to be a Mac user when people see it (like it was back in 7/8/9). But they at least could have left the adding of items to the individual users. For that ability I look to FruitMenu (by Unsanity).

What should be there
Like I said, I take the time on every Mac I work on to customize any Apple Menu which has been left as default. The best way to understand what it is that I do is to see exactly how I think the menu should look. Here are my Apple Menus on my PowerBook (Mac OS X) and my Power Macintosh 7100 (Mac OS 8.6).

Oddly enough, Apple started to get the right idea with Rhapsody. Just after the second release (version 5.1) Apple released a system application for customizing the Apple Menu known as the AppleMenuOptions.app. Needless to say, coming from using Mac OS 8.x this was a welcome feature (which I hoped would make it to Mac OS 9/X, but didn't).

To give you an idea what you can do with this, here are my Apple Menus from my PowerBook (Rhapsody 5.6) and ThinkPad (Rhapsody 5.1).

AppleMenuOptions.app comes with Rhapsody 5.3 and later (in /System/Applications), but can also be found for Rhapsody 5.1 (both PowerPC and Intel versions) here (app, ReadMe).

When fired up, it should bring up a window like the one below (which matches the current Apple Menu configuration).

For every application and submenu in the menu, you can add an icon. I keep an extensive collection of icons on my system, so I can give each submenu a special icon which represents each category. Select the submenu/app you want to change the icon for and hit "Edit Item". To add items you just go to "Add Item" and navigate to the app you want in the Apple Menu.

Below is the "Edit Item" window for the Terminal.app

This is also where you can control the recent items in the Apple Menu.

When you are happy with your changes, save and quit.

Apple Menu in Blue Box
We really shouldn't treat the Blue Box environment any worse than Yellow Box... specially considering that the default Apple Menu in Blue Box looks much worse than it does in Yellow Box.

I'm not sure if I would classify it as easier or harder to customize the Apple Menu in Blue Box. It is just different, but requires more steps.

First you need to make folders for each of the submenus that are going to be part of your Apple Menu.

Next you need to collect aliases of each of the apps you want in the menu. I remove the word "alias" and generally all version numbers and other things added to the original app's name (helps keep the menu clean).

The trick to a Blue Box Apple Menu is that every thing is alphabetized. What I do is open Key Caps too make an "Apple" symbol (control-t) which I put in front of the names of the folders.

The actual Apple Menu folder is in the System Folder. I generally open it up in list view so I can look at it like it was the final version of the menu. With all the elements in place I start removing all the extra junk Apple dumped there (and put those items in my "Menu Extras" folder). What I end up with is a pretty clean folder and menu.

This could be a good stopping point, but our Yellow Box Apple Menu look so much better than this one. So the last thing I add is DividerLines (you can find it here, it should work in all versions of Blue Box... 8.1, 8.5, 8.5.1, 8.6). To install DividerLines you just place it in the extensions folder in the System Folder and restart Blue Box.

After restarting anything in the Apple Menu folder that has a name that ends with a "$" shows up as a divider line in the main menu.

Here is what my final Apple Menu and Apple Menu Items folder look like.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it really should be something that you only do once and then add and remove items as you go along.

And the resulting Apple Menu is one of the most helpful features of either the Yellow Box or Blue Box environments.