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The 2016 MacBook Pro lineup includes two models that feature Apple’s multi-touch enabled OLED strip built into the top of the keyboard. Known as the Touch Bar, the interface provides useful contextual controls and Touch ID support for logging in with a fingerprint.
When these MacBook Pro models first launched in the fall of 2016, most of the first apps to offer Touch Bar support were Apple’s own. Thankfully many third-party apps have now been updated to support the feature.
Given the popularity of the MacBook Pro among creative types, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Adobe Photoshop CC was one of the first non-Apple apps to receive Touch Bar support. Furthermore, it was also one of the few apps to get a demonstration at Apple’s MacBook Pro event in October 2016.
With the Touch Bar and Adobe Photoshop, you can access features and controls right in the context of the current task on the main screen. The Touch Bar supports common gestures, such as tap, drag, and slide.
Modes include Default, which lets you work with layer properties and related functions; Brushes, which includes Brush and paint properties; and Customize, which allows you to add your favorite Photoshop controls.
Already one of the most popular password management apps on the market, 1Password for macOS continues to remain relevant thanks to its Touch Bar integration for MacBook Pro. Using the OLED panel, you can unlock 1Password with your fingerprint, just as you can on iOS devices using Touch ID.
You can also use Touch Bar to switch password vaults or categories, create new entries, locking vaults, searching your database, and more.
1Password is available across multiple platforms, including macOS and iOS. It’s available for as little as $3 per month.
All of Microsoft Office’s apps are compatible with Touch Bar. Perhaps the most important of these is Microsoft Excel. Using Touch Bar, you can more quickly access recently used functions when typing an equals sign into a cell. For example, with a tap (for the formula) and another tap (for a named range) in the Touch Bar, you can sum a range in your spreadsheet with ease.
The Touch Bar with Excel also provides quick access to borders, cell colors, and recommended charts, allowing you to better organize and visualize your data.
You can purchase an Office 365 subscription from $6.99 per month.
4. djay Pro
One of the most popular Mac apps for DJs, djay Pro, was also one of the first to gain Touch Bar support. Like Adobe Photoshop CC, it too was demoed at the October 2016 MacBook Pro event.
With the Touch Bar for djay Pro, you can manually control the crossfader, scrub through tracks, set marker points, and access effects. You can also use the tool to manipulate two decks simultaneously, manually select the active deck, and navigate the library to preview and prepare songs.
The $49.99 djay Pro is available to purchase through the Mac App Store.
5. PDF Expert
Readdle’s PDF Expert for Mac makes the annotating and editing of PDF files simple. Touch Bar integration allows you to focus on the content in full-screen mode.
With Touch Bar, you can perform tasks like annotate the PDF, redact sensitive information using a blackout tool, insert text, images, links, and more. Other features include the ability to highlight text, underline, or strikethrough text, insert text, or comments, and other options.
PDF Expert is available as a free trial. You can buy the full version for $59.99.
The folks behind the popular Photoshop alternative Pixelmator for Mac say that Apple’s Touch Bar adds a “completely new way to interact” with the software. After watching this lengthy Touch Bar tutorial, you’ll probably agree:
First introduced in 2007, Pixelmator remains one of the most popular graphic editors for both macOS and iOS. It uses technologies like Core Image and Automator.
In developing its Touch Bar tools for macOS, Evernote looked to screen-based devices for inspiration. In doing so, it determined:
“In some ways, the Touch Bar is a sleeker, more stylish take on the soft buttons seen on screen-based devices, like mobile phones and cash machines. In other ways, the Touch Bar is more like your favorite keyboard shortcuts that you won’t need to memorize.”
Evernote Touch Bar tools include the ability to one tap to a new note (just like on your phone), access tags at your fingertips, and the color picker (which offers a multi-color spectrum to find that perfect shade for text, table borders, and table cells).
Evernote is available as a free download across multiple platforms. Non-basic packages include Evernote Plus ($34.99 per year) and Evernote Premium ($69.99 per year).
Flexibits’ Fantastical 2 is the calendar of choice for many Mac users. The app, which is also available on iOS, allows you to use natural language to quickly create events and reminders.
By default, Touch Bar provides access to Fantastical’s My Calendar Set tool, a quick return to Today, and a slider so you can scroll through the months. You can customize the Touch Bar to include the Sidebar view, Time Zone override, and more.
Fantastical 2 for Mac is $49.99 on the Mac App Store.
Designers often turn to vector graphics editor Sketch to get digital projects done. With Sketch, you can create interfaces, websites, icons, and more, with ease. With the Touch Bar, you can use controls and shortcuts that are relevant to a particular context in Sketch. These include the ability to create and insert layers, edit shapes, and others.
As a Spotify user, you can use the Touch Bar to search, shuffle, and repeat tracks, use traditional play/pause/skip controls, and adjust the app’s volume. When in the background, the Touch Bar offers a Spotify playback scrubbing tool plus play and pause buttons similar to iTunes.
You can buy a Spotify Premium subscription for as little as $9.99 per month.
Lots to Try
If your MacBook Pro has a Touch Bar, there are plenty of apps to try with the laptop’s most interesting feature. Don’t have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar? You can add the feature on your old computer and it won’t cost you a dime.
If you already own a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, we’d love to know the apps that you use with the feature. Let us know in the comments below.