If you work in post-production, you work on computers. There are a lot of things within those computers, including hard drives, RAM and the trusty Internet connection, that need monitoring if you want to get the most out of your software apps and work efficiently. iStat Menus is a useful tool that will let you take control of those under-the-hood systems and keep tabs on any number of processes that affect your work. As you can see from the image above, you can monitor the CPU, memory, different aspects of your hard disks, the upload and download speeds of your network, unit temperature and battery life. You can also swap out your regular computer clock with the iStat Menus clock, if you like. You can customize the way any of these menus look and how the data is displayed. Below is how I’m currently using iStat Menus to show my CPU usage, via a thermometer-type bar, and my network’s speed:

I could have chosen a pie-chart display or numerical percentages to show CPU usage. iStat Menus is a very well thought out application and considering all the information it can display, it’s a great value at $16. A trial is also available.

For some, however, $16 is too much: iStat Menus used to be free and not everyone wants to start paying for it now. One free alternative is MenuMeters. While not as elegant in design or as deep an application as iStat Menus, MenuMeters does have a lot of the same features. Take a look at them both, compare and see what’s right for you. Personally, I find the ability to change iStat Menu’s byte-type display for the Network settings (below) worth the $16.