Back in October 2016, Apple introduced its newest lineup of macOS devices. Among these were the next-generation MacBook Pro models featuring an all-new Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive display along the top of the keyboard. I never intended to upgrade my older MacBook Pro at that time, and I didn’t.
However, because I fell immediately in love with the Touch Bar, at least as a concept, I planned on upgrading the next time Apple refreshed the MacBook lineup.
That chance came in June 2017 when I finally took the plunge and purchased a mid-priced 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID. Months later, I did the unthinkable and disabled Touch Bar functionality.
Here’s why, and how you can do the same.
When Touch Bar was announced, Apple described it as “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” and part of the “most powerful MacBook Pro ever.”
As Apple explained:
“The Touch Bar places controls right at the user’s fingertips and adapts when using the system or apps like Mail, Finder, Calendar, Numbers, GarageBand, Final Cut Pro X and many more, including third-party apps. For example, the Touch Bar can show Tabs and Favorites in Safari, enable easy access to emoji in Messages, provide a simple way to edit images or scrub through videos in Photos and so much more.”
While all this sounds great, in reality, Touch Bar offers little more than yet another way to perform the same everyday tasks we’ve been doing for years.
Does it provide a more straightforward or more accessible way to do so? In my humble opinion, no. Or put another way, Touch Bar isn’t yet worth the premium price of admission despite what Apple’s PR department might tell you.
There are three main reasons I’ve decided to stop using Touch Bar on my MacBook Pro, at least for now. Perhaps these reasons sound familiar.
Limited Adoption, Poor Implementation
The number of Mac apps that support Touch Bar continues to rise. In addition to the native macOS apps, the feature works with Microsoft Excel, Evernote, Spotify, among many others. Unfortunately, the level of implementation varies greatly depending on the app.
For example, Adobe Photoshop CC (above) was one of the first apps to support Touch Bar, and to this day, it remains one of the few apps that push the tool to professional-like levels. By contrast, an app like Google Chrome only offers basic Touch Bar support, such as the ability to push a button to visit your internet homepage. Boring, no?
The Dreaded Learning Curve
One of the first things I did with my new MacBook Pro was to download djay Pro for Mac, the incredibility popular music app for professional DJs. I’m not a DJ (professional or otherwise), but I do enjoy using djay Pro to mix songs from iTunes or Spotify.
With Touch Bar integration with djay Pro, you can manipulate two decks simultaneously, manually select the active deck, and navigate the library to preview and prepare songs, among other features.
While I enjoyed this integration, I quickly realized I already knew how to do these things using the trackpad. And perhaps more importantly, I decided it wasn’t worth my time to learn to do the same things differently.
Once I decided the Touch Bar learning curve wasn’t for me, my interest in the tool waned quickly.
Is That All There Is?
There’s one final reason I decided to ditch Touch Bar: I like the rest of the input controls much more.
On the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models, Apple offers one of the smoothest keyboard experiences around thanks to the company’s second-generation butterfly mechanism. I’m also impressed by the spacious Force Touch trackpad, which gives you more room to roam.
By comparison, the Touch Bar just doesn’t feel as good to my fingers. The flat OLED display, while beautiful, doesn’t have the bounce of the butterfly mechanism nor the roominess of the trackpad.
How to Disable Touch Bar
There’s no way to turn off Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro with a one-tap switch. However, you do have the option to configure it to show traditional function keys or general media control only. These replace the per-app shortcuts. To do so, follow these steps.
First, click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
Next, from the System Preferences screen, choose Keyboard.
Notice the pulldown menu next to Touch Bar shows. Select Expanded Control Strip from this location.
Next to Press Fn key to, use the pulldown menu and select Show F1, F2, etc. Keys.
Once you make these changes, exit System Preferences. You’ll notice the Touch Bar now includes buttons for items such as Mission Control, LaunchPad, Volume Up/Down, and Siri.
Just the F Keys, Thank You
If you’d rather ditch these keys and only show the traditional F keys on the Touch Bar, go back into System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard. Where it says, Touch Bar shows, choose F1, F2, etc. Keys.
The only keys now showing up on the Touch ID are Esc, F1, F2, etc.
I’m not saying I’ll never use the Touch Bar on my MacBook Pro again. In fact, I still use it to make purchases with Apple Pay. Nonetheless, overall, I don’t find it all that useful.
Some form of Touch Bar will almost certainly arrive on future MacBook Pro models and perhaps 0n a standalone wireless keyboard. When it does, I’ll take a look and won’t be surprised when it performs better than the version that’s available now. Technology improves, after all.
The current-generation MacBook Pro models are available with and without Touch Bar, so you can make your own decision. If possible, head to a store and play with the new MacBook Pro before you stump up the cash.
Do you use Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro? In hindsight, was it worth it? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: blackzheep/Depositphotos