Making a simple Menu Bar applet to replace Shortcuts’ progress meter

After making a set of shortcuts for One Thing for Mac, I built a simple progression meter for the Menu Bar using Shortcuts.

Yesterday on Six Colors, Jason Snell wrote a post called Create visual feedback for running Shortcuts about a method he’s using to check his progress in a long-running shortcut using a Menu Bar utility.

His post was born out of frustration with the Shortcuts menu bar applet, which we discussed on Mastodon as being somewhat unobvious as a signal for progression:

Earlier today, I was complaining to Shortcuts expert Matthew Cassinelli about how there’s no really good way to view progress of a running Shortcut on macOS. Yes, the Shortcuts menu item in the menu bar sort of tries to display progress, but… it doesn’t provide any information I find particularly valuable.

I’m frustrated because I do have some Shortcuts that take time to run, yet unless I have them beep or display a notification when they reach a certain point in the process, I have no idea what they’re doing or if they’re even working.

If you didn’t know, the Shortcuts menu bar icon changes while a shortcut is running to indicate progression.

Plus, any currently-active shortcut also appears at the bottom in the Menu Bar item’s list of shortcuts (unless the shortcut is already a Menu Bar shortcut, in which case it animates in place).

However, as I mentioned in parts of our conversation, that shortcut simply shows the total percentage of actions the shortcut has progressed through so far:

That means that any type of Repeat loops quickly make this useless as it could be repeating hundreds of times but show at 90% done because of the placement of the action.

My personal solution for my logging shortcuts that uploads hundreds of posts to Airtable/my website has a method where it uses Show Notification at certain points in the chain so I know when one of multiple files is uploaded or the item is finished publishing and is moving onto the next one.

I like this because I only need intermittent reminders for this particular task, plus the list of notifications in Notification Center lets me see a sort of visual progression over time.

In his piece, Jason found a solution in SwiftBar, a Mac utility app that lets him use Shortcuts to reload data into scripts that display different data/icons in the Menu Bar.

My alternate suggestion was One Thing, a Mac app by prolific developer Sindre Sorhus that lets you update a simple text widget in the Menu Bar using Shortcuts.

By counting the total number of items passed into a longer-running repeat process, one could use the Repeat Index to calculate a current progression through the total and have One Thing update at the end of each loop – here’s an example shortcut:

This is a quick-and-dirty solution, which doesn’t apply at scale to every type of shortcut — if you’re finding yourself with long-running repeats, however, both mine or Jason’s solution might work for you.

Plus, there’s likely many more apps to display progression in the Menu Bar — let me know if you build your own solution too!

Check out the One Thing progress bar shortcut and get One Thing on the Mac App Store for free.

Plus, check out the One Thing folder in the Shortcuts Library — I have shortcuts for setting your current One Thing for the moment, showing the Now Playing track from Music, and for putting Today’s tasks from Things’s beta in your Menu Bar.

Featured Shortcuts

One Thing progress bar
Sample shortcut showing how One Thing can be used to show progress.

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