20 cool things you can do with the new MacBook Pro Touch Bar

By , Oct 27, 2016

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

One of the new flagship features on the 2016 MacBook Pro is the new Touch Bar. This is essentially a versatile OLED bar at the top of your keyboard that replaces the function keys with software-based buttons that change based on what app you’re in and what you’re doing.

In this post, we’ll mention 20 awesome things you can do with the Touch Bar on your new MacBook Pro.

20 things you can do with the Touch Bar

1. Type more productively

Apple has brought the predictive keyboard, also known as QuickType, from iOS to the Mac with the Touch Bar. Now, whenever you’re typing, such as when composing an email, the Touch Bar learns how you speak and predicts what you should say next so you can tap on the words as they appear rather than spelling them out manually with your keyboard.

2. Accept or decline calls

Touch Bar Calls

Whenever you receive an incoming call, whether it’s via FaceTime or through a nearby iPhone relaying a phone call to your Mac, your Touch Bar will automatically turn into a response pad so you can accept or decline the phone call without clicking on anything.

3. Perform email actions

If you’re looking at your email inbox in the Mail app, you’re going to find all kinds of useful functions right on the Touch Bar. Among those, you’ll find quick compose, quick reply, flagging, and even “Move to…” buttons for navigating your email efficiently without clicking on a single thing.

4. Manage your filesystem

The Touch Bar becomes useful when you’re in Finder and are in the middle of looking at any of your files and folders. It comes with features like Quick Look, tagging, sharing, and much more, which makes it a breeze to organize your stuff, get a look at what’s on your machine, and send files to others.

5. Use your function keys

Touch Bar Function Keys

Apple’s idea with the Touch Bar was to replace those function keys that are hardly used anymore on modern computers (Macs especially). Despite the function keys being replaced, you can still press and hold on the Function (fn) key at the bottom right of your keyboard and the Touch Bar will transform into a virtual function key row (f1 through f12)  until you release the Function key.

6. Customize the action buttons

Just like any navigation bar throughout the apps in macOS, you can customize the buttons that appear on your Touch Bar. This is done by opening the editing interface and dragging new buttons into the Touch Bar from the canvas. One of my personal favorites is the screenshot button, which lets you snap a screenshot with a tap rather than pressing a myriad of keys. There will also be other shortcuts, like a Do Not Disturb toggle, among other things.

7. Invoke Siri

Always at the ready on the right side of your Touch Bar is a button for launching Siri. By tapping on it, you’ll bring up the voice assistant, and this is going to let you query your Mac with any questions you might have and receive witty responses. You can also use Siri on your Mac to perform intelligent filesystem searches and to launch apps.

8. Access your Mac’s operational keys

Touch Bar Operational Keys

Since the Touch Bar replaces the functional row of your Mac’s keyboard, you will now start to see two virtual buttons that let you modify your display brightness and speaker volume, as well as other operational features, like Mission Control and Launchpad. When you tap on either of the buttons, all you have to do is utilize swipe gestures in the direction you want the level to move. Simple enough.

9. Format your text

If you’re using a supported app that handles any form of text editing, such as Mail, Microsoft Word, TextEdit, etc., then you’ll also be able to use your Touch Bar to format your text. Basic formatting options like the ability to bold, italicize, underscore, and more are going to be included. After you select some text, you can tap on the button from the Touch Bar that translates to the visual effect you want, and it will be applied.

10. Pan through video

While watching any kind of video in full-screen, the Touch Bar is going to become a real time video scrubber for apps like Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime, and more. You’ll be able to tap and drag throughout the scrubber and see a real-time representation of your movements on your Mac’s display. The MacBook Pro’s powerful new graphics allow the panning to be super fluid, so you won’t notice any jittering.

11. Send Emojis

Touch Bar Emojis

In certain apps like Mail and Messages, the Touch Bar also acts as a hub for accessing for favorite Emojis. When you tap on one, it’ll suggest even more that are similar to the one you’ve already tapped on. You can scroll left and right through them and tap on them to input them into any text field you’re working in. It’s even smart enough to keep a history of your frequently-used ones so you always have access to them.

12. Browse the web

When you’re browsing the web in Safari, and you open a new tab, the Touch Bar loads up your favorite pages automatically like magic. When you’re ready to fire up one of your favorite websites, all you have to do is tap on it from the Touch Bar to launch it. After a page loads, it becomes a navigation bar with a URL field, back and forward buttons, and even a new tab button.

13. Control your music

Whenever you’re listening to audio on your Mac, the Touch Bar becomes an off-screen media controller. Complete with forward/back and play/pause buttons, which were already present in the function row on the basic keyboard, the Touch Bar-based music controller lets you command your music without ever having to open a window on your Mac to access the controls.

14. Pick the best color for your art

Touch Bar Color Picker

If you’re in a creativity app that supports a color picker, such as Keynote or Photoshop, the Touch Bar is going to provide you with a color picker so you can more easily choose the color you want to use. The new method of tapping and dragging to the color you want is so much more fluid than clicking on a color option box and then clicking the color you want.

15. Edit your photos

If you’re using Photos, or another Touch Bar-enabled photography app on your Mac, then you will be able to use your Touch Bar to edit photos as well. Depending on what you’re doing, you can use your Touch Bar for rotating, cropping, filtering, auto adjustment and more. These kinds of features will be built into Photoshop before the end of the year, but some will also be available in Apple’s Photos app.

16. Write code

Developers who will be picking up Apple’s new MacBook Pro can use the Touch Bar to enter commonly-used coding keywords in coding languages like Swift, so long as they’re editing code in supported apps like Xcode. For some, this will be a time saver, especially if you’re using the same keywords over and over again, which happens a lot in the programming world.

17. Pan through your calendar events

When you’re using the Calendar app to keep track of everything that’s important to you, the Touch Bar is going to let you scroll through all the weeks of each month in your calendar so you can quickly get a grasp of all your past and upcoming events.

18. Control your Mac’s CLI

Not everyone uses Terminal, but it’s a huge part of a lot of Mac power-users’ lives. The Touch Bar is capable of working with the command line interface by letting you move up and down through lines of command input and output.

19. DJ your favorite jam

Algoriddim is making just one of the third-party apps that will support the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar in time, and some of the things you can do with their djay app is mess around with scratching noises, sound effects, and transition yourself from one track to another as you DJ a mix for a party or for other entertainment purposes.

20. Edit videos

Apple is introducing a new update for its Final Cut Pro X app and you’ll be able to use Touch Bar for a wide variety of video editing situations. Among those, you can trim audio and video clips, adjust the volume of your audio clips, interact with your video timeline, and much more. The actions change depending on what you’re actually doing in the app, so the number of things you can do with Touch Bar while editing video is seemingly endless.

A good function key replacement?

I think it goes without saying that the Touch Bar is an amazing replacement for the hardware function keys that have been on the Mac since the beginning. Not only does it provide basic function key functionality out of the box, but it goes even further by providing versatile shortcuts in real time for whatever you might be doing on your Mac.

Thanks to the APIs available for Touch Bar, even third-party apps can be programmed by their developers to take full advantage of it. Many apps with Touch Bar support are already under way and will be released before the end of this year.

Are you excited for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro? Tell us why in the comments below!

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  • Radu

    So excited about that!
    Just kidding. Seriously Apple? A “touch bar” is the best you can do? How about that 5-years old technology called a touch screen which you still haven’t managed to implement in your MacBooks? So excited about that Surface Book introduced yesterday. Way better than this outdated technology. People want some innovation – like a keyboard you can detach and use the laptop as a tablet, one that doesn’t feel crippled by an operating system that’s running on my phone.

    • czbird

      Yeah. We don’t know what to do with Fn keys, so we better remove them completely. Woot?

    • chjode

      Touch screens are five years old?

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        of course not, they’ve been existing way before then. It seems this guy knows way too much.

    • Phil Randle

      Okay, firstly if Apple wanted to add a touch screen to a MacBook they could, they have the some of best multitouch technology on the market, they could easily integrate it into a MacBook.

      The reason they haven’t is they don’t work, and the demand is small because only a small number of people want them. Microsoft average 1-1.5M Surface devices each quarter (inc there Surface Pro Tablets) about 30% of these are the Surface Book. So comparatively if you look at the 4.5M Mac’s sold every quarter or the 10M+ iPad’s it clear that if consumers wanted converged touch screen laptops then these figures would be closer aligned.

    • Daniel Tiecher

      While having a touch screen is indeed nice sometimes, I actually feel I’ll prefer using the Touch Bar over a touchscreen, if I have to choose one or the other.

      I’ve used a Surface Book for more than a month and felt that being able to touch the screen was great, but during daily usage it got tiring and made me loose my focus even more than using a mouse or trackpad (I like to use the keyboard as much as possible). For someone like me, I feel it would be better to have the Touch Bar, since my hands need to move less, not to mention the fact something like this on a new Magic Keyboard would be great for desktop usage as with desktop monitors, the screen is even farther away, making a touchscreen an even less desirable way of interacting with the interface.

      All-in-all, different choices for different people, if I could I’d love to have both but right now I feel Apple’s offer suits my needs better. Let’s see if the touch bar lives up to my expectations when I finally try it.

    • iBanks

      What exactly is innovative about an keyboard that can detach and use the laptop as an tablet? That touch bar will be something serious in which others will surely try to implement.

    • siddique

      if they make touch screen make its like to kill iPad sell ..they will never do it

    • Liam Mulcahy

      Wrong. apple has used touchscreen tech since 2007

    • Icisz

      So making a tablet hybrid 10 different ways is innovative? Perhaps. I like what Microsoft is doing in certain areas but deciding some pathways and product categories would go a long way to making me believe in thier abilities to follow through. Outdated technology? Lmao, ahhh an observation only a youngin could make. How many horrible Mobile Os did Microsoft fail at before they realized the only way to have a competitive mobile user base was to merge their mess of operating systems into one unified system, and to support other more successful mobile platforms. Clearly it works for you but for me, I find it quite crippling. Granted a studio touch screen iMac might be an interesting offering without question for the creative sector, but if MacBook ever becomes a touchscreen based interface or a take me apart abortion, sorry son. Not for me.

      After decades of stagnant innovation at MS at least they are finally getting a nice fanboy base. I just hope they can continue the trend because for now, their replica retail stores are a long way from being packed.

  • ProllyWild

    This is a very nice concept and a lead-in to later technologies that might have keyboards completely in this format. This is not enough to make me wanna buy a new macbook, but i do look forward to a standalone keyboard for imacs and mac pro.

    I dont expect a touchscreen macbook until an OS is adequately designed for desktop function and based around touch. The new surface device that’s coming out is likely a small step in that direction, but you cannot just slap touch onto a basic desktop OS and call it a success. There needs to be a logical reason and flow to justify that.

    Hell and who cares? the real winner in these new models is the thunderbolt 3 integration.

  • Brandon

    I can accept everything they implemented in the new macbook line up. Except for, no usb 3 port, no magsafe, no more apple logo glowing, no hdmi, no sd card. They just force me to get a converter…

    • James Jennett-Wheeler

      Thunderbolt 3 is a USB-C port (which supports USB 3.1)… so it has 4 USB 3 ports technically haha. Still need an adaptor for USB-A.

      I don’t think the intention is to force you to buy adaptors, rather it’s about supporting the future of tech (which always has a side effect of making older tech obsolete – which is why adaptors are created). I truly believe that USB-C paves the way for wired future. I hope it lasts as long as USB-A and that it becomes more widespread (negating the need for adaptors).

      • thunderqus

        “I don’t think the intention is to force you to buy adaptors” – thats exactly what their intention is, money eaters, future doesnt mean abandon everything and hit a dead wall, rather provide new and old ports together for continuity & not force us to buy adaptors, Apple is forcing it , where as it can be done in more friendly manner.

  • Roomuch

    Just one word for this – needless.

  • Kernel Kosmos

    Anyone can explain to me what’s going to happen if I want to control my multimedia when typing? With old MacBook, you just press the physical key to play/stop/forward/volume up/down. Now with TouchBar, I would only see the typing shortcuts on the TouchBar right? I won’t get access to the multimedia shortcut WHILE typing. Anyone already hands-on can verify it?

  • The Greatest Freedom

    Apple is as dead as Jobs..Thanks God..Slave company of the Year