Show Location Usage Icon in the Menu Bar of Mac OS X

Jan 22, 2016 - 7 Comments

Show location use icon in the menu bar of Mac OS X

More services and features rely on location to function properly on Mac OS X, but whereas iOS will default to showing you a little compass arrow icon when location is accessed and used, OS X doesn’t show comparable location usage by default in the latest versions.

For users who want to know when Mac OS is requesting access and using location data, you can toggle an optional setting that, much like iOS, will display a compass location icon in the menu bar of OS X.

How to Enable the Location Use Icon in Menu Bar of Mac OS X

This requires modern versions of OS X, earlier releases do not have a location icon feature:

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Select “Security & Privacy” and go to the Privacy tab
  3. Choose “Location Services” from the left side menu and scroll down in the list to find ‘System Services’, then click on the “Details” button
  4. Check the box next to “Show location icon in menu bar when System Services request your location”
  5. Exit out of System Preferences as usual

Show location use menu icon in Mac OS X

Now when a system function requests your location, for example to find local listings, a location reminder, getting nearby movie showtimes in Spotlight, get local weather in Spotlight, directions and locations from Maps, and more, you will see a little compass-arrow looking icon appear in the menu bar.

Showing location use icon in the menu bar of Mac OS X as Spotlight weather is pulled for location

The compass icon disappears automatically after the location has been pulled, and reappears again if it is requested again.

Note this menu item actually appeared automatically in prior versions of OS X but it’s disabled by default in the latest versions. The location icon is actually interactive as well, and if you click on the location icon you will see the name of the application or service that is using and requesting location data on the Mac. You can always control what apps can use location data in OS X as well, which may be useful.

By default the Location usage compass icon will appear on the far left of the menu bar status icons list, but you can rearrange the menu bar icons if you want it to be elsewhere, and if your menu bar is overly cluttered, don’t forget you can remove icons from the menu bar as well in OS X, sometimes by dragging them out of the menu bar, and sometimes requiring intervention through the app that is placing the status icon in the menu bar to begin with.

Whether or not you wish to enable the location icon likely depends on how often you use location services on the Mac, whether you want to know if you’re using location services, and your opinions on privacy matters pertaining to location data. Of course,

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

7 Comments

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  1. Robert Damato says:

    How to Enable the Location Use Icon in Menu Bar of Mac OS X

    Choose “Location Services” from the left side menu and scroll down in the list to find ‘System Services’, then click on the “Details” button
    Check the box next to “Show location icon in menu bar when System Services request your location”
    Exit out of System Preferences as usual
    Cannot click on System Services and Details not highlighted

  2. Ralphy says:

    Great tip. Although I have some many menu items that things penget covered up when certain windows are open and have many menus options open on the left side of the screen.

  3. David says:

    It is necessary to click the “lock” icon at the bottom of the services screen, then enter your password. Click the lock again when you are done.

  4. JAMAR says:

    Note that a zero character password is not allowed to access this feature – Password required!

  5. esaruoho says:

    I can’t actually get anything to display with Weather Cupertino or Weather Helsinki. What should I do to be able to get it working?

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