The MacBook Pro Touch Bar Sucks, So I Disabled It

Bryan Wolfe 30-10-2017

Back in October 2016 Apple Unveils New Touchy-Feely MacBook Pro Apple has taken the wraps off of its brand new MacBook Pro. It's a beautifully designed piece of hardware, with several innovative touches and some annoying caveats potential buyers will have to beware. Read More , 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.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

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.

The Promise

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 How to Get the New Touch Bar on an Old MacBook for Free Want to try out the pricey new MacBook's Touch Bar for free? There's an app (or two) for that. Read More despite what Apple’s PR department might tell you.

The Reality

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 10 Apps That Put the MacBook Pro Touch Bar to Good Use When the new MacBook Pro models first launched, most of the first apps to offer Touch Bar support were Apple's own. Thankfully many third-party apps now also support the feature. Read More . Unfortunately, the level of implementation varies greatly depending on the app.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

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 6 Reasons to Listen to Beats 1 on Apple Music If you haven't yet listened to Beats 1, we're here to tell you why you should. In this article, we'll explore six reasons why Beats 1 is worth your time and attention. Read More .


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.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

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 10 Genuinely Useful Force Touch Trackpad Gestures on a Mac Apple's Force Touch technology enables for pressure-sensitive clicks, which can vastly speed up how you access some of the system's most useful shortcuts. Read More , 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.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

Next, from the System Preferences screen, choose Keyboard.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

Notice the pulldown menu next to Touch Bar shows. Select Expanded Control Strip from this location.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

Next to Press Fn key to, use the pulldown menu and select Show F1, F2, etc. Keys.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

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.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

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.

apple macbook pro touch bar disable

The only keys now showing up on the Touch ID are Esc, F1, F2, etc.

Wrap Up

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 How Useful Is the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro? Does Apple's thin context-dependent OLED strip improve productivity or is it just a gimmick as some users are making it out to be? Read More .

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. And be sure to check out these tips on how to get more out of the Macbook Pro Touch Bar.

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

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  1. David
    July 18, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    I wish I could disable the entire bar, the most annoying feature being esc button, which I inadvertently touch when I rest my left hand on the keyboard. Lame.

  2. Andrew K
    January 4, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    It's kind of not worth it, I agree. There are emojis, but only for native apps, and Chrome only has the very basic keys. And the esc key disappear each time I touch the arrow. And I love to rest my fingers on the fn keys. But it's useful on Photoshop, but the Chromebook Pixelbook and Ms Surface still overrull it, a cross between a traditional laptop and a tablet.

  3. Mike Covill
    October 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    I agree. The touch bar doesn't really offer any new functionality you couldn't put on the main screen and manipulate with the mouse directly... without taking your eyes off the screen. Remember, with the iPhone and iPad, the revolutionary idea was to manipulate your content directly. With the touch bar, you have to move your eyes off screen to manipulate things on screen. A great example of this is that while I write this, the touch bar is offering text completions which I would only see if kept looking way down below. Not very useful or efficient.

    Most annoying for me is when my hands are resting on the keyboard, if they simply 'touch' the touch bar, unwanted or unintended things start happening. With function keys, you have to intentionally press the keys to get the action you want. Pretty basic user experience theory.

  4. Words Matter
    September 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Please learn what words means. Your method in no way DISABLES the touch bar; it changes its behavior and does not even affect the entire touch bar, such as the ESC "key."

  5. olivier refalo
    June 10, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    The touch bar is really poorly designed:
    the bar is touch sensitive, keys are press sensitive - big difference.
    You can have your fingers drop on the bar by mistake. they will activate functions.
    the bar doesn't provide press feedback, the keys do
    the bar is flat, it doesn't help you locate the ESC key - keys do
    Who would look at the keyboard all the time? this is so lame!

    If Jobs was still here he would have never approved.

    • David
      February 9, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      my biggest complaint is yours; my fingers invariably hit the bar and trigger some unintended function. it's super annoying. as for Jobs, I'm not so sure he wouldn't have approved. Apple is far from perfect; now, and then.

  6. Bobby
    March 28, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    the touchbar is very casual-consumer, rich kid cool, but I imagine most powerusers don't like having to look at the keyboard all day. If we could keep the physical keys AND add a touchbar, sure, I haven't lost anything, but losing the tactile feel especially for the escape key is terrible.

    • Tom Stock
      June 18, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Agree, I am a software developer and I am CONSTANTLY brushing the esc key or SOME OTHER key on the touch bar. Half the time my screen changes colors, goes away, some bizarre action of which I don't know because in addition to the sudden surprise, the touchbar CHANGES so I don't even know what I hit.

      Now instead of ONE keypress to change volume, it requires three movements.. 1) click volume button, 2) move hand to slider, 3) slide volume. DUMB!!!!

      Trying to use something like "vi" with a virtual esc key is maddening. It's right next to the SIRI button... if you miss (yeah you have to physically LOOK at the touch bar to find the esc key now becuase you can't feel it), you invoke siri.

      I have always loved MacOS OSX, but since Steve is gone, the hardware is becoming more and more idiotic.

      I have a 2018 macbook pro and I can't plug in my iphone. I can't use an SD card, I can't use a magnetic power connector. I can't even use a USB thumb drive.

      Now I need to buy the "Octopus" which sits on my lap on the airplane, just so that I can plug in my iphone, or use a thumb drive.

      Seriously it's like Apple went back in time 20 years. My 386DX laptop had more port options. USB C is nice yes, but I don't need 4 USB C ports and nothing else!

      • Mike Covill
        October 15, 2018 at 5:48 pm

        I would add to this the loss of the hardware battery indicator, and the loss of the LED on the charge cable confirming that it is indeed charging.

        And I second the complaint of the removal of the SD card slot. SD cards aren't going away. Lots of devices still use them, and will continue to use them because they are the most efficient way to transfer files between them and a computer.

  7. Golucid
    December 27, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Thank you for this and letting us all know that their are some choices.

  8. Mario Mauprivez
    October 30, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    It may be that some apps like Chrome do not have the best implementation of touch bar, but the reality is that there are many, really many applications that have good functionality displayed in the tool.

    In any case, it may be used or not, but it seems to me an exaggeration to go to the extreme of advising to disable it.