10+ Apple MacBook Pro Touchbar tips

Getting to grips with the MacBook Pro touchbar -- and why Laptop got it wrong

Apple, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Toucher, macOS, Mac, Laptop Magazine
Microsoft

I’ve been using a MacBook Pro with Touchbar for a few months, and I’ve become quite familiar with its new user interface features – to the extent that I feel Laptop magazine was incredibly unfair in its recent criticism of the computer.

Why Laptop got it wrong

You can use the Touchbar to do so much more, and while I guess Laptop hasn’t yet actually tried to use their Mac in any meaningful sense, I have, and I find the Touchbar a fluid way to reach nested application commands. It is particularly useful when using pro apps.

I’ll take one moment to throw a little criticism at Laptop’s data. How can the publication get rid of two key data points (audio and software) in the last two years and claim to be consistent?

I also thought the criticisms: color, not being a Surface, the move to Thunderbolt, and other complaints were exaggerated in contrast to criticisms levelled against competing products. I thought hacking a point from Apple’s Support score because it doesn’t provide support through Facebook was ridiculous. How many “touch points” do others provide?

Tips you can use

Let’s move on. Here are some handy tips I’ve put together across the last few months that I think will help you get more from your Touchbar (I’ll assume you already know how to customize those buttons).

Shushing up Siri

I also reported this tip elsewhere. I found a problem when working in that I kept tapping the Siri button by mistake. My solution? Basically I customized the strip, put a Mission Control button where Siri usually is and shifted the assistant to the left of the volume controls. It worked. If you have this problem, you might want to try it.

Swiftly Siri

Tap the button to invoke Siri, or tap it, keep holding it down, ask your question and release it and your assistant will fetch the answer for you. You’ll save seconds!

Five is the magic number

The Touch ID sensor on the right of the Touchbar can support up to five prints. This matters as if you want to securely share the Mac you can assign one print to each user, given you five users (and guests).

Function

Do you find you use the function keys regularly in some apps? You can get to them by pressing the ‘fn’ character, but you can also set that particular app up in order that it ALWAYS shows those keys. To do this, open Keyboard System Preferences, select Function Keys, and tap +, you can then select the app. One more thing, when using that app you can get to the ‘regular’ Control Strip tools by tapping the ‘Fn’ key.

On the slides

Switch volume or brightness fast just by tapping the button, pressing it for a moment, the slider will appear and you can move it to where you want it. (You can also increase/decrease in tiny increments just by holding down the option button while using the slider).

Auto Complete

When you are filling in a form the Touchbar will offer up autocomplete suggestions, letting you choose different emails, or addresses, or whatever other options you have in your contact card.

Both hands

You can use Touchbar and the touchpad together. One way to see this is when looking at Finder files in Carousel view – you select the view in the bar, and scrub through files using the pad. Another place you’ll see this is when using edit tools in Photos, the Rotation tool is especially cool.

Calculator

From the small but useful dept.: Apple’s Calculator app is optimized for Touchbar. Open it and you get standard controls, but open the Customize Touchbar item in Calculator’s View menu and I think you’ll be pleased at what you find. You should explore the customization options inside every app.

Call

Touchbar provides a range of buttons when using Facetime, including Answer and Decline; check Caller ID, mute the call or set a video call up to full screen.

The missing feature

Some Mac users want to put the Dock inside their touchbar. The bad news is: You can’t. The good news is: Two apps, TouchSwitcher and Rocket can do this, though they aren’t available via the App Store. (Here is a neat selection of other indie apps to add more to touchbar).

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
Shop Tech Products at Amazon