How To Customize And Use Touch Bar In The New MacBook Pro 2017

Last updated January 13th, 2017

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro 2017 features a dynamic, intuitive, and very stylish touch bar that’s been laid right above the keyboard. The touch bar is capable of performing a variety of functions for various applications. What’s even awesome is that the Touch Bar is very customizable.  Touch Bar comes pretty handy, especially when you are looking for shortcuts to certain operations or functions. The ability to be customized makes the Touch Bar all the more pleasing. It is much like the Dock that’s typical of any Mac OS. It allows you drag and drop the functions to it. However, not all the apps can be added to the bar. Here is how you can customize the Touch Bar on your new MacBook Pro 2017.

Display Control Strip, App Controls or Both

You could have the Touch Bar display the Control Strip, App Controls or both of them together. In order to modify the functionalities, go to the Keyboard section in the System Preferences. You will see many tabs at the top labeled as Keyboard, Text, Shortcuts, etc. Make sure that you have selected Keyboard (it will be highlighted in blue).

In the middle of the screen there are two options for Touch Bar. One says ‘Touch Bar shows’ and the other reads ‘Press Fn key to.’  Click on the ‘Touch Bar shows’ dropdown and you will see three options. You can choose both App Controls and Control Strip, or you can pick one of the two.

Customize How The Touch Bar Responds To The Fn Button

When you are in the Keyboard section of the System Preferences, in the center, just under ‘Touch Bar shows,’ you will see another drop down, labeled ‘Press Fn key to.’ This dropdown lets you choose what Fn key does to the Touch Bar. By default, the Fn key will display the function keys F1, F2, etc. However, in case you chose App Controls with Control Strip or App Controls in the ‘Touch Bar shows’ dropdown, you can have the Fn key press either expand or show the Control strip. On the other hand, if you chose ‘Expanded Control Strip’ in the ‘Touch Bar shows’ dropdown, pressing Fn key will display the App Controls.

If this sounds complicated to you, let’s simplify it. When you press the Fn key, you either see the Function Keys or the Touch Bar function you did not choose in the ‘Touch Bar shows.’

Customizing The Controls Displayed For Each App

Touch Bar let’s you customize the icons or controls that it displays for a particular application. But, this is something that you need to change within the app. So, the app you are using must support Touch Bar customization. This isn’t something that can be customized at the system level from System Preferences.

Let’s take the example of the Finder app on Mac OS. Launch the app and go to Customize Touch Bar in the View menu. You will see the list of options and functions that can be customized or added to the touch bar. Click the option that you want on the bar and drag it to the bottom edge of the screen. The Touch Bar will start displaying that option. The existing controls on the Touch Bar will quaver a bit to accommodate the new control.

The Touch Bar customization varies across the apps and some of them may not support it at all. You need to open the app and look up for the Touch Bar customization option. Look for the sections such as Preferences, Settings, or View.

Customize Touch Bar Controls For Safari Or Other Native Apps

Whether you wish to customize Touch Bar Control for Safari, or for that matter any other native app, you will need to use the Customize Touch Bar option in the View Menu.

If you are customizing the app controls for Safari, you can include Reader, Add Bookmark, History, Home, Sidebar, etc. to the Touch Bar.

Apps like Notes allow Touch Bar customization. However, currently there are no Touch Bar options for Apple Maps and Contacts.

Also Read: How To Backup iPhone To iCloud or iTunes

Customize The Right Controls

Remember that context based controls can also be added to the Touch Bar. You need to be very sure whether you are customizing for the generic app use or for a specific purpose. For instance, while customizing app controls for Safari, you may have a tab active with some website downloaded on it. In that case, it is very likely that the app controls on the Touch Bar for Safari will be in context to that website and not necessarily for the general use of Safari.

You simply need to ensure that you haven’t opened anything specific within an app before adding the controls to the Touch Bar. For instance, while customizing controls for Safari make sure that the tab is empty.

Customize The Control Strip

Control Strip comes very handy when you need to access certain functions or features quickly. While you may like the Control Strip in the Touch Bar, you may not like how the options are laid out on it. In that case, you may want to customize the Strip to make it more agreeable to you. Sometimes, you may touch and launch an app inadvertently from the Strip Control. This could be pretty frustrating. But, you can move some of the options out of the way so that this doesn’t happen again.

In order to customize the control strip, go to System Preferences and choose Keyboard button on the panel at the top. At the bottom you will see a button labeled ‘Customize Control Strip…’ You will now see the customization panel with the list of the functions. You can click and drag any control from the screen of your computer onto the Control Strip of the touch bar. If you are using the Control Strip in the collapsed mode, you can change the four tools that appear in this mode by tapping the Collapse button displayed as ‘>’ on the Touch Bar in the far left.

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