How to make the function keys the default Touch Bar display

Function Keys on the touch bar
Function Keys on the touch bar

The Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro replaces the traditional row of function keys on the keyboard. To access the function keys temporarily, simply press the fn key, which is the bottom leftmost key on the keyboard. You can then tap F1 - F12 as needed.

Additionally, if you installed Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp, the Touch Bar will automatically default to the function keys while you are in Windows.

You can also manually specify which apps you want to display the function keys by default while you are using them. Here's how.

How to make the function keys the default display for specific apps on the Touch Bar

You can open the Keyboard section by searching in Spotlight. Or, manually open it via System Preferences.

Note: Some apps may not support this feature. It's up to developers.

  1. Click on the Apple menu logo in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Click on System Preferences.

  1. Click on Keyboard.
  2. Click the Shortcuts tab.

  1. Select Function Keys from the sidebar.
  2. Click the Add (+) button.

  1. Select an app that you want to display the function keys on the Touch Bar as a default.
  2. Click Add.

Now, whenever you are using an app on the list, the default display on the Touch Bar will be the function keys.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about how to make the function keys the default Touch Bar display when using certain apps?

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

1 Comment
  • iMore may prepare an article on how to (re)redefine application keyboard shortcuts. That would relieve many people confused about the lack of physical function keys on the new models with Touch Bar. Application keyboard shortcuts are defined in the same Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard Preference pane, shown at 4 above. You can (re)define all the keyboard equivalents of almost all menu items in all applications. Just take care of writing the menu item exactly as it appears. You can also assign keyboard shortcuts to all services. Services are tiny automation utilities built with the Automator application. You can even define services for specific applications if those applications do not offer the menu items you need. Define a service with the Automator, specifying the application in which you'd want your service receive data, build your service using Automator's built-in functions then save your service. You can then assign a keyboard shortcut to that service. In your application use this keyboard shortcut to trigger your service. Thanks to services and keyboard shortcut assignment in applications and to services, you get a tremendous keyboard power, that would largely compensate for the lack of physical function keys.