The finer points of the MBP touchbar

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Porkchop Sandwich, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. Porkchop Sandwich macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2017
    Due to what appears to be a general consensus that the touchbar is nothing more than a useless gimmick, I thought it'd be nice to start a thread that counters the pervasive negativity that is quite ez to find on this board. Please refrain from engaging in debate, assertions of uselessness, imposed cost, or opinions of what constitutes a 'real' professional.

    Just the finer points, please.


    I'll start w/two features that are incredibly handy for me.

    When authoring a draft, I sure like that I can add bullets or other construct modifiers in my docs with just the tap of an icon at the ready as opposed to having the stupid format sidebar that appears in Pages. I like Pages and that's Mac's native drafting thanks Apple, it's handy.

    In Calendar, another native Apple app - I really, really find the option to scroll through yrs, mos, et al along the touchbar a HUGE convenience. Thanks for optimizing your hardware to dovetail into the functionality of your native calendar program, Apple. This one's especially handy for my use.

    Please share how you use the tb and how it helps your productivity.
  2. Porkchop Sandwich thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2017
    No debate, please.

    Is there a single virtue about the tb you find useful in your workflow?
  3. LogicalApex macrumors 6502

    Nov 13, 2015
    I am very much a fan of the Touch Bar, but I understand how polarizing it is.

    That being said, I think full discussion pro and con is helpful as long as it is kept clean. There is nothing inherently wrong with liking the Touch Bar and there is nothing inherently wrong with disliking it. Change is often disorientating as well so it is still too early to probably say of the feature is a waste or if it offers an extreme shift.

    Especially since still only some Mac devices ship with it and many do not.
  4. IngerMan, Oct 26, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018

    IngerMan macrumors 65816


    Feb 21, 2011
    I read this week of a nice feature from another member posted (afir93).

    I added quick actions and used automator (first time for me)to toggle between dark and light mode with 2 touches on the touch bar. Nice feature to be able to do with out ever leaving the app I am in.

    Touch Bar Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.50.40 PM.png Touch Bar Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.50.52 PM.png

    Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.55.20 PM.png

    Attached Files:

  5. maflynn, Oct 26, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2018

    maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    On the topic of TouchBar, I'm using a handy little app called DimBar by MR member @V-l-a-d-i-m-i-r. Its a nice little utility that dims the touchbar in windows. This app reduces the likihood of burn in since it only displays the f-keys you may run into issues with burn-in
  6. Momof9 macrumors 6502

    Aug 22, 2018
    I don’t have one (yet???) But I have seen it demonstrated.... In photos - you can easily and quickly scroll thru photos. I know that you can get all kinds of shortcut for photoshop. I know that it learns what. you use most commonly.

    I am new to mac - so the cost is hard for my brain to overcome. Plus, I would be using it probably with an external monitor. Not sure how close the Touch Bar would be for me. Or I have to get a new desk that is lower so that it is ergonomic.... or I raise my chair and have a footrest since I am short.

    I think it is fantastic, what little bit I have tried out the Touch Bar in the store....
  7. afir93 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 5, 2018
    I guess I might aswell start with some (partially lesser known) applications that I've found useful since I bought my 2018 MBP:

    Pixelmator Pro. I'm not a professional photo editor or anything, but I use the app on a regular basis for some quick but slightly more advanced image edits or drawing some sketches, and I find the app's TB support extraordinarily well done. It puts the entire tool selection bar along with many individual sub-options and controls onto the Touch Bar.

    The thing is, many of these tools just don't have a keyboard shortcut because they aren't suitable for one, and this is one aspect that the people arguing against the Touch Bar often deliberately ignore. Want to change the width of your current brush to a value between 1 and 1000? Or want to select one of several dozen different brush types? How do you want to replicate that stuff with KB shortcuts, do you want to assign each individual value between 1 and 1000 a unique keyboard shortcut?

    Having a slider or quick-picker for these things on the Touch Bar is actually really convenient because you can leave your mouse cursor wherever it currently is within an image. Want to, say, find the perfect width for a brush to draw a certain line on your image? Without the Touch Bar, you must check the current width of your tool within the image, then move your cursor from there to the on-screen slider to pick a new value, then move the brush back to the image to see if the new size fits better, if it doesn't then move the cursor back to the picker and so on. It's a lot of unnecessary mouse movement. With the Touch Bar, you just leave the cursor where you want it on the image and use the slider on the Touch Bar instead, while you can see the changing brush size live on-screen instead of having to move the cursor back and forth.

    Safari. Namely, the visual tab picker and the option to activate PiP even on websites that normally prevent you from doing so (looking at you, Netflix). 'nuff said.

    The color picker on the Touch Bar is actually really convenient, I oftentimes prefer it over the on-screen one. I especially like that you can just tap and hold on the button for the color picker and then slide your finger to the desired shortcut-color, which is a few taps/clicks less then first looking for the tiny color rectangle on-screen, clicking it, selecting the desired color there and closing it again.

    The video timeline in video apps. I love how the Touch Bar gives you an indication on where in a video you are and how much time is remaining even when the on-screen controls for that are hidden. You know these situations where you're watching a long movie or YouTube video in fullscreen and flick the mouse around just to see how long it's still going? I do that a lot less since the Touch Bar now provides that information. (I only wish that you could turn off how the Touch Bar automatically dims after 60 seconds for these kind of purposes.)

    The QuickLook features. I especially like how previewing a long pdf-document will give you miniatures of the pdf pages right on the Touch Bar and I'm genuinely baffled that Apple didn't put the same functionality into Preview. The timelines for movies and waveforms for audio files are pretty useful too.

    Another underrated feature: The book timeline in iBooks. Now I'm an avid eBook reader though I read on my iPhone or iPad most of the time, but I can't help but appreciate how simple yet well thought-out the "timeline" in an open eBook is that immediately gives you a clue where in the book you are and even shows the different chapters. Otherwise if you want to check your position an in eBook in iBooks, you have to move your cursor to the bottom area so the scroller becomes visible and then estimate how far through the book that is, which isn't very intuitive or practical. The Touch Bar always shows that information in a subtle yet much more readable way.

    The image miniature bar in the Photos App. Another no-brainer: it not only provides you visual clues when in full-screen to the photos before and after the one you're viewing, but using it to scroll through large amounts of photos is actually fairly fast yet extremely precise, it adds a whole new layer to the navigation in the Photos app. I think these sort of timelines and sliders are where the Touch Bar is at its best: not when it's replicating keyboard shortcuts, but when it gives you completely new navigation elements that aren't feasible for on-screen controls and profit from the speed, precision and intuitiveness of a horizontal touch input with your finger.

    The new Command + Shift + 5 screenshot/screen recording tools in Mojave. What I like particularly about this is that when recording a video of your screen that way, the Touch Bar will steadily show you the current file size that this recording up to the current point will take. Previously, I'd usually have no idea how long a recording will be until it's actually finished, which can be problematic since the file size can be of crucial importance depending on what you want to do with the file (for example, if you want to upload or share the screen recording with someone, then it usually can't be overly large).

    The different formatting tools in apps like Pages, Numbers, Notes, Microsoft Word/Excel etc. Now hear me out, making a text bold for example won't ever be something that I can see myself using the Touch Bar for since the pretty much universal Command + B shortcut is just faster, but what about stuff that you don't know the shortcuts of because you simply don't use them so often? What if you want to format a paragraph of text as a subsection in Word or as a numbered list with Roman numerals with brackets in Pages? These things might have keyboard shortcuts, but are you really going to learn them if you only use them once in a while and if they oftentimes aren't even universal between applications? These are the sort of things where the Touch Bar actions for it come in handy.

    Honorable mention: the Emoji picker. Now before you pull out your pitchforks: no, this is not something that absolutely needs the Touch Bar, and I honestly find it a little silly that Apple put so much emphasis on it during the original Touch Bar presentation, but it's just a little nicer and faster to select emojis in this beautiful list with large icons instead of fiddling around with the tiny on-screen emoji picker. I honestly use emojis much more on my MacBook Pro than on my iMac in WhatsApp/iMessage conversations because of the additional convenience.

    Also OP I definitely agree with your assessment about the Touch Bar timeline in the Calendar app. I don't use that app very often on my Mac but I think it's another good example of how the Touch Bar is just so suitable for these timeline-ish controls that oftentimes feel misplaced/impractical on-screen.

    In all fairness, I don't use each of those features every single day, and the Touch Bar is not an absolute must-have for me – but it's definitely a nice-to-have. There are also many apps where I just don't use it at all because it provides nothing useful, but I think some type of apps just don't have very good functions that can be put on the Touch Bar. I.e. if all the Touch Bar can get in an app is a row of buttons that do things that all have keyboard shortcuts, then it's naturally going to be less useful/interesting there if you already know these shortcuts. But it's these apps that put some new dimensions of interaction or useful visual information onto the Touch Bar where it IMO really shines.
  8. Hadron, Oct 26, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2018

    Hadron macrumors regular

    Apr 13, 2010
    For me, yes, but it's completely different from yours.

    I'm a big user of Spaces: I've been using virtual desktops to organise my work since the early 90's (Unix, Linux and MacOS), and find a computer without this feature virtually unusable. So for me using BetterTouchTool to provide a set of easily accessible "jump to desktop N" buttons (a standard feature of most Linux UIs) via the touchbar is a genuine improvement in usability. But you'll note that I've used a third-party app to provide a functionality that Apple don't offer, and I do this in place of the functions Apple provide. So I've made it useful to me, but in a way that's quite different from you.

    Personally I don't find the functionality that Apple have provided for it very compelling. The expanded control strip basically does what the buttons did, with some customisation (a plus) and no tactility (a minus). The app controls option just annoys me: the fact that it's different in different apps reduces usability, many apps I use don't use it at all (so it's just dead space), others provide controls which I don't find very helpful. So for me it's better to use a third party app to provide functionality I find useful but Apple don't provide, and turn all of that other stuff off.

    The other thing's the TB offers for me are the fingerprint reader and the ability to add a more convenient "lock" button (yes, I could use an app to set a function key to do this, but this is more convenient). Both are related to the fact that my laptop has sensitive data on it and so locking and unlocking are things I do a lot, and the TB+touch ID make this simpler and more convenient.

    (I don't think a discussion of usability of a feature should be limited to Apple's apps just because I'm using an Apple computer, or even that Apple's apps should be privileged in such a discussion. I use whatever app works best for me, regardless of the OS or app provider, and so I think it's correct that a discussion of the utility of the touch bar should include how it works with each user's apps and workflow rather than just how it works with Apple's apps).
  9. Porkchop Sandwich, Oct 26, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2018

    Porkchop Sandwich thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2017
    IngerMan - thanks for a great unknowingly taught me much more than what I'd considered I might learn. Automator's been on my 'to-do' list of applications I've intended to start looking at for years but just never seem to have the've now gotten the ball rolling for me and, you, after sharing what you learned from afir93 also shared a GREAT add-on to the tb. I tend to enjoy light/dark as the sun rises and's much less a pita to switch it now.

    Momof9 - once you pull the trigger on a Mac - hang in there. It took me a bunch of yrs to make the switch from a pc due to the fact I was heavily invested in pc software for my business at the time. When I made the switch, I felt like I'd made a terrible decision for at least the first 2 months. Once I found my footing. That was it, I literally lost any desire to work on a pc ever again. I am not alone in my sentiment any many other Mac users will tell you the same thing. Good luck and BUY THE MAC YOU WANT, don't compromise. That's not to say you shouldn't perform your due diligence b/c it's quite ez to buy more Mac than you really need. Be honest with yourself and think forward about 4/5 yrs so that you acquire the computer that's going to work for you. Most everyone ends up loving their first Mac after yrs have passed.

    afir93 - wow!! What is there to say except thank you so much for taking the time to share such a great many uses of the tb.
  10. IngerMan macrumors 65816


    Feb 21, 2011
    Another useful TB quick action add on I added is "quite all applications".

    Touch Bar Shot 2018-10-27 at 12.25.54 PM.png

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9 October 26, 2018