The Joy of Touch Bar

Nigel B. Peck
Dec 24, 2019 · 6 min read

I avoided replacing my MacBook Pro for years. Partly due to the woeful Touch Bar. Partly because 2012 was a very good year. How would I live without the click of my escape key? Everyone says they’re terrible. It must be true. Oh, how things change…

I’ve had my MacBook Pro for, oh, around three months, and I’ve got to say, I’m loving the Touch Bar. I miss it when my laptop is plugged into my monitor. I find myself wondering, “could there be a Touch Bar… for desktop?”

I’m spending more time on my laptop because I enjoy having the Touch Bar. It’s so cool having a blue button that says, “Commit”, and then, “Push”.

Real Buttons!

And then there’s the super-useful “Commit and Push…”, (black, not blue, shame), which saves me having to move the mouse pointer, click a drop-down, and choose from a bunch of alternatives to do that.

Which I never did. Because Cmd-Shift-K was easier.

The point is, a button for “Commit and Push”, easy to hand, is a significant saver of focus. This is valuable, especially while trying to concentrate on writing code. And at the point, I’m committing and thinking over what I just wrote.

The button does what it says. It’s right there; just a small reach above the number strip.

I can look at it and use it without any mental interpretation. No keyboard shortcut to remember. No matter how well I know it. It’s right there in front of me; the thing I need to do. It’s much more intuitive, once you get used to it.

It’s like having a whole instrument panel for each app. For the important stuff that that app does. You only see the part of the instrument panel that is relevant at the time. Which means it can be close to your fingers.

I’m not getting why developers aren’t loving this.

A lot of fun in its day. Things have moved on. But the fun’s still around!

I almost forgot, the best! Which I had to wait for to experience after I realised it was a thing. And it was so much fun… “Refactor”!

It was soooo satisfying pressing the “Refactor” button for the first time! It still hasn’t gotten old after a few days and a dozen or so presses!

Just look at that juicy “Refactor” button!

The primary action buttons like this are so helpful in general.

They are always in the same place.

I no longer need to scan for buttons at the bottom of the dialog and use the mouse to press them. I can simply press the button that is always in the same place and does exactly what it says.

Back to the woes of not having this on desktop…

It’s got me wondering, what other cool stuff could this Touch Bar do?

And… I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with as this matures!

And the magical… what if we could make touch bars that instantly morphed dynamic real physical buttons, that were tactile, and clicked!

That would be so cool. The whole keyboard could be dynamic!

I guess the point here is clear. I’m pretty excited about the Touch Bar. Because it makes me more productive. It’s fun. And it has potential for more of both in the future.

It’s like the missing piece of the interface that you didn’t know you needed. It makes so much sense. To have a dynamic, touch-sensitive area, that can change as the application state changes and offers useful actions. It’s like a fun and friendly, dynamic, customisable keyboard shortcut rememberer!

Maybe some of the more astute readers will have noticed. I’ve had my laptop for three months now. Yet I only just got to playing with the refactor button, and the Touch Bar in general, recently. How can this be? What happened?

If you’re not wondering that, well, fair enough. I was. And it seems like reasonable wondering.

So what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. I totally ignored it! The whole Touch Bar! It was an area of the keyboard that I had marked off as being of no value to me.

I used it for the things that I used in that area on my old MacBook Pro, like volume and brightness, and grumbled to myself every time I pressed escape and had to look where it was and there was no satisfying click.

Not getting a click for escape was weird, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I’ve gotten used to the F keys appearing when I press fn, and again, I like it more now. It makes much more sense than two rows of physical keys.

Just today, while writing this article, I finally looked at the large button in the middle of the Touch Bar, while I’m in my web browser. “🔎 Search or enter address”, it has printed in large letters across it.

I’ve not read that in three months. Not really read it. I knew it was there. I could have told you that it was there. Perhaps even have told you what it said. But I’d never really looked at it. I’d certainly never used it. Or tried to figure out how it could help me.

Once I did, just now, today, I realised it’s something I do multiple times a day. It takes focus to the search bar. I no longer need to click on the search bar to focus it. Which I do a lot.

And it focuses it properly. Not like Cmd-K, where you lose the address of the current page and go straight to an empty search. You can still search by typing and overwriting the URL, but that doesn’t happen until you start typing.

Cool again. Thanks, Touch Bar.

And hey, there’s also a ➕ button just next to it for opening a new tab. Something else I do a lot of, and easier than Cmd-T, once I get used to it. Nice.

I found out today that I can customise the “Control Strip”[1] — the buttons on the right that are always displayed on any main app panel.

So I removed the Siri button and replaced it with Launchpad.

Now I can quickly access all of my apps.

There are all kinds of other cool buttons in there that I could have chosen; it was a close call.

I added the play/pause button, so it’s always there next to Launchpad to pause my music when needed. Which is often.

I played with some other options and need to go back later to look at more.

It’s going to take some time to get used to the Launchpad and play/pause buttons. It’s enough for now. Maybe I’ll try some other buttons later.

To all of the people who dislike the Touch Bar, have you actually tried it? Have you really tried it? Have you looked at how you could be more efficient by using it? Have you looked at how you can make small uses of it, and keep playing around with it, and getting to know it one step at a time?

Have you looked at how the things you’ve lost, you haven’t really, they’ve just changed, and in exchange, you’ve gained more than you know, if you only try it? And really try it.

Have you tried to have fun with it?

Or maybe it’s just me. I’ll leave the reader to decide.

[1] System Preferences → Keyboard → Customise Control Strip

Mac O’Clock

The best stories for Apple owners and enthusiasts

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store