New MacBook Pros expected to swap the Touch Bar for full-size function keys

Apple will reportedly refresh its MacBook Pro notebook line with full-size function keys in place of the Touch Bar, a feature providing dynamic app shortcuts that no one uses.


  • The next MacBook Pro models are expected to ditch the Touch Bar feature
  • In place of the Touch Bar: A row of physical function keys, with a twist
  • Function keys are the same size as the alphanumeric ones

A close up of the right half of the Apple M1 MacBook Pro notebook with Adobe Photoshop show on the display and related Touch Bar shortcuts
Adobe Photoshop with Touch Bart shortcuts | Image credit: Adobe

A MacBook Pro with full-size function keys is coming

It’s no secret that Apple is redesigning the MacBook Pro lineup of notebooks around its own silicon. It’s also no secret that the machines are expected to be announced at Apple’s “Unleashed” event happening later today. On top of that, it’s been heavily rumored in the past year or so that these upcoming systems won’t ship with the Touch Bar.

According to MacRumors, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models expected to be unveiled today will include a function row with some notable design changes. Each modifier key, according to the publication, will have “the same width and height as the alphanumeric keys on the rest of the keyboard”.

Before Apple introduced the Touch Bar in October 2016, the MacBook Pro featured a narrow row of function keys that individually had a smaller profile than the alphanumeric keys. However, in lieu of a Touch Bar, the new MacBook Pro models are expected to have a full-size complementary row of function keys, similar to Apple’s Magic Keyboard that comes with the 24-inch ‌iMac‌.

And this:

The most recent rumor about the new MacBook Pro keyboard is that the area surrounding the keys is black, rather than just the keys themselves, in what is “probably the biggest visual change on the keyboard since the Unibody redesigns over a decade ago,” according to details leaked by a Weibo account last week.

The removal of the Touch Bar from the next MacBook Pro was mentioned earlier as a possibility by both reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. The change is apparently evident in stolen schematics for Apple’s upcoming notebooks.

Why ditch the Touch Bar?

Introduced in 2016, the Touch Bar is an OLED touchscreen that sits above the keyboard replacing the traditional row of physical function keys including Escape. With the Touch Bar, Apple promised to make people more productive. The Touch Bar was supposed to make people use features in apps they otherwise wouldn’t discover on their own.

The Touch Bar displays various shortcuts that are typically exposed through app menus. However, people have a hard time remembering complex keyboard shortcuts in apps, and no one likes digging through the menus to find a specific feature.

The Touch Bar exposes app shortcuts dynamically, as they’re needed.

You may be editing a document in the Pages app, with the Touch Bar displaying shortcuts for text styling or similar. In another example, the Touch Bar may expose cropping and color adjustments in an image-editing app like Photoshop. Unfortunately, the Touch Bar never took off as it was a solution in search of a problem. Read: Do you hate the Touch Bart?

The user is expected to switch between looking at the display and gazing at the Touch Bar below the screen. Often times it’s faster to just press a keyboard shortcut combination or access features via menus. And of all the shortcuts exposed through the Touch Bar, many people only ever used two of them more than once: video scrubbing and an emoji picker.