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Everything you can do with the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar

MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro

Apple's latest hardware update to the MacBook Pro includes a completely new strip of technology called the Touch Bar. It allows you to access controls for your Mac's system, as well as different controls for the apps you use. We dug deep to find out everything we could about what you can do with the Touch Bar in different built-in and third-party apps. Here's everything we know about what you can do with the Touch Bar in different apps so far.

This list will be updated as we find out more, so bookmark it and come back often.

The Control Strip

The Control Strip, which sits on the right side of the Touch Bar, is fully customizable. You can remove controls from the panel or hide it completely. When the Control Strip is hidden, only app controls are visible. In the reverse, you can hide the app control panel, in which case the Control Strip will stretch out across the Touch Bar. Apps will have different configuration options. Some will allow you to customize the app controls. Others may not. It depends on what the developer decides to do with it.

So far, we know that the Control Strip performs the following functions:

  • Hold down the fn key on your keyboard to turn the Touch Bar into traditional function keys F1 - F12.
  • Siri
  • Notification Center
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Screenshot
  • Dictation
  • Input Sources
  • Show Desktop
  • Screensaver
  • Screen Lock
  • Sleep

Primary system controls

Within the secondary menu of the Control Strip sits your primary system controls. The primary system controls include:

  • Screen brightness
  • Keyboard brightness
  • Playback controls (rewind, fast forward, and play/pause)
  • Volume controls (increase, decrease, and mute)

Touch ID

The Touch ID sensor is actually connected to the Power button, which sits to the far right of the Touch Bar, but it is, in fact, part of the Touch Bar. Touch ID on the Mac features a T1 Secure Enclave, which encrypts your fingerprint for more security and keeps it offline. Here are the functions of Touch ID:

  • Use Touch ID to log in
  • Use Touch ID to switch user accounts (supports multiple fingerprint identities)
  • Apple Pay on the Web with Touch ID

Quick Type

Similar to the way suggestive type works on the iPhone and iPad, Quick Type will suggest words depending on what you are currently writing. It is contextual, so it will do things like look up contacts when you are in the CC field of an email. It has the following functions:

  • Predictive type
  • Emoji suggestions (in Messages)
  • Contacts suggestions (email, phone #, etc.)

Finder

Finder is a one-stop shop for practically everything you keep on your Mac, and the Touch Bar is a one-stop shop for practically every function that the Finder has. Here are all of the functions that the Touch Bar can do when you are using Finder:

  • Share
  • View (icons, list, columns, and cover flow)
  • New Folder
  • Back/Forward
  • View Options
  • Quick Look
  • New Folder with Selections
  • New Window
  • New tab
  • Move to trash
  • Connect to server
  • Open With…
  • Go to…
  • Move to
  • Copy to
  • Get info

Facetime

When you receive a FaceTime call, you can use the Touch Bar to quickly accept or decline a call, simply by tapping a control on the panel.

Photos

The Photos app has plenty of functionality, and thanks to the Touch Bar, you can access that functionality much more easily. You can view photos and videos, edit images, and more. Here are the functions of Photos on the Touch Bar

  • View albums and collections in a preview on the Touch Bar
  • Favorite photos with a "Heart" button
  • Access playback controls for videos
  • Scrub through videos to move to a different spot in the timeline
  • Edit pictures, including Crop, Rotate, Filters, Lighting adjustments, Retouch, Straighten

Final Cut Pro X

Apple's professional video editing software is getting an update with support for the Touch Bar. Here are just some of the functions that you can use on the Touch Bar while editing in Final Cut Pro X:

  • Timeline Scrubbing
  • Audio editing (volume, effects)
  • Video Trimming
  • Create and assign roles
  • Drag to reorganize roles
  • Playback controls

Photoshop

Adobe is jumping on the Touch Bar bandwagon with an upcoming update to its most popular photo-editing program. The Touch Bar brings out functions that are normally buried under settings in the Photoshop app. Here are the functions:

  • Blending options
  • Select and Mask
  • Resize
  • Layers
  • Full screen mode
  • Brush control
  • Change blend mode
  • Access to Favorites folder
  • Color changer
  • Zoom
  • Scroll through changes

djay Pro

Algoriddim will be adding Touch Bar support for its music mixing app. With it, you can pretty much just use the OLED panel on the Mac as your turntable. Here are just some of the functions available using the Touch Bar with djay Pro:

  • Effects
  • Sampler
  • Filters
  • Scratch
  • Find queue points using Wave
  • Synth pads
  • Sync tracks
  • Loop
  • Time signature

Messages

Of course, since Apple updated Messages in iOS, it only makes sense that they would make sure the Touch Bar worked with the Mac Messages app. In addition to Quick Type suggestions, you can really express yourself. Here are the functions of the Touch Bar in Messages:

  • Emoji (organized by categories)
  • Emoji suggestions
  • Predictive text/text suggestions
  • Tapbacks for bubble effects

Mail

Getting to inbox zero is going to be a much more pleasant experience when you can tap to triage your most important emails. With the Touch Bar in the built-in Mail app on Mac, you'll be tapping your way through all of those unread emails in no time at all. Use the Touch Bar with these functions:

  • Reply
  • Write new mail
  • Emoji (including categories)
  • Predictive text/text suggestions
  • Text Formatting (Bold, Italics, Underline)
  • Copy
  • Paste
  • Contact suggestions
  • Compose Message
  • Flag email
  • Move To…
  • Archive message
  • Send

Safari

When you use the Touch Bar with Safari, navigating the internet will only be bothersome because you are overloaded with too much information. Touch Bar navigation features make browsing the net a downright pleasant experience. Here's why:

  • Bookmarks/recently visited
  • New Window
  • New Tab
  • Scrubbing through tabs

Calendar

I know we have Siri now to set up appointments and check our daily schedule, but the virtual assistant now has to compete with the tactile joy of the Touch Bar. Here's what you can do with it:

  • Add new event
  • Accept an invite
  • Add Time
  • Add location
  • Scroll through events by day

This list will be updated as we find out more, so bookmark it and come back often.

Siri

Siri still does just what she always does, but now there's a dedicated Siri button right on the Touch Bar. macOS Sierra brought Siri to the Mac — now the new MacBook brings Siri to the Touch Bar.

Stay tuned

There are likely many more Touch Bar functions that'll show themselves once we get more hands-on time with the new MacBook Pro, so bookmark this page and check back for updates!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 


Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

13 Comments
  • Didnt surprise about that, Microsoft invented that in 2010 https://youtu.be/OSFlvml0Sso
    and i dont think, it will be easier than surface book, surely easier than previous macbook.
  • Never fully understand what the obsession is with people "inventing" things. You can probably find someone who "invented" it before Microsoft. Either way, that implementation uses an E-Ink screen which means it's monochrome and has a very low refresh rate. Apple's will be a lot easier to use than that
  • Whatever whatever ( after reading all comments) ;) , comparing macbook with surface is comparing iPhone with Windows phone. adding Windows hello or fast charging wont make WP superior, adding whatever BAR, wont make macbook superior. both are failure right now & dead :P
  • Typical arrogance while you know nothing of which you speak. Yet another Anti Apple biggot. Microsoft hardware such as the Surface and others from their queue are utter crap. Just look at the Windows OS. They can't hold Tim Cook's jock strap. Just like Azure and Crappy Office 365 issues. I can go on and on but whatever.
  • Didnt surprise about that, Apple invented that in 1994
    https://512pixels.net/2014/08/the-control-strip/
    and i dont think, it will be easier than power book
  • How is that even remotely the same? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Same idea except it's on the main screen instead
  • Really. And you can touch to action? No? Didn't think so. Apple didn't invent the action bar. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Don't be silly, touch screens weren't around then, how did you expect them to do it back then?
  • Lol. Thanks for the help. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • You're welcome :)
  • Maybe this would move some of the sidebar content from apps/pages and display it in the touch bar? How long before this is productively useful (couple of years?)?
  • I think it'll be productively useful from the day you buy your new MacBook Pro. Alright, I guess it might take a few months for all your applications to get support, so I guess you could say a few months. 2 years is incredibly excessive, 6 months at most