The end of the MacBook Touch Bar

Everything in today’s presentation was exciting. These new M1 Pro and M1 Max are groundbreaking.

But Apple killed the Touch Bar because they never wrote software to fully utilize the power of the TouchBar.

All the effort developers put into Better Touch Tool wasted.

I am so disappointed to have an additional row of fixed keys instead of a very flexible Touch Bar.

It took Apple how many years to bring back the superior Magsafe connector.

How can we get all the goodness of these new M1 machines and also keep the Touch Bar?

Usually when Apple kills something they are ahead of the curve. Floppy disks, CD Rom drives, Modems, DVD players, all come to mind. I don’t miss them at all.

When they killed widgets, they were easily replaced with apps in the menubar.

But I will miss the Touchbar. Anyone else that liked and used it?

Personally, I have a “butterfly keyboard” Pro and never much liked Touch Bar. The lack of tactile feedback means that you have to look down at the keyboard just to do something as basic and frequent as pressing the Esc key. That’s a deal breaker for me.

I had one in my 2017 MBP, but never really used it.

The Esc key issue was already resolved. My 2019 16-inch MBP has a physical Esc key. Only the Fkeys are replaced by the Touch Bar.

I’m not surprised that they killed the Touch Bar, but I am disappointed. It failed not due to lack of capability but due to lack of support, from both Apple and third-party developers. Unless you’re using BTT, 90% of the time the Touch Bar is useless simply because most apps never took advantage of it.

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Without ever fully taking it on, I liked it, but… I had to think every time I used it. It wasn’t a muscle memory tap away.

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I never used a Touch Bar Mac, but everyone I know who did have one totally hated it, didn’t use it, and missed the keys that were replaced. I never heard or read anything good about it either. It was excoriated in the press, and Apple never tried to fix it and counter the negativity. I didn’t know the Touch Bar was fixable, and though Apple did keep it going for years, they finally just gave up and walked away. Apple did keep it for quite some time.

An aside…I’ve always thought the butterfly keyboard and Touch Bar were among the reasons for Jony Ive’s departure from Apple.

While you still can, please download the free Better Touch Tool and then load the Aqua Touch Toolset (also free) and see what the TouchBar can do with good software. \

The applications already supported it simply by having keyboard equivalents. BTT would create TouchBar equivalents of the keyboard shortcuts.

Since BTT was free and the user interface is not super easy, there was very little marketing or promotion. But talking to Senior Advisors at AppleCare, no one there had ever heard of Better Touch Tool. A very bad case of Apple Not Invented Here Syndrome.

So, please, by all means try it out and then review it. Your voice carries a lot more weigh at Apple than mine.

Tim Cook needs to be convinced he made a mistake, the same way Apple made a mistake killing the MagSafe connection.

I am slo concerned about the new security and privacy changes in the new MacBook Pros that might make downloading software from anyone not blessed as an approved developer problematic.

This lack of support seems to me to have resulted from the lack of universality. Apple never stopped selling non-Touch Bar laptops, and the Touch Bar was never available on any sort of external keyboard for use on iMacs or Mac Minis (or iPads for that matter). So even if you had a great idea to implement a feature with the Touch Bar, you would still have had to develop an alternate implementation for the large population of users who didn’t have one.

This brings to mind the decision (attributed, I believe, to Jobs) to omit cursor keys from the original Mac keyboard–developers will adopt a feature if they have to, and they had to support the mouse. If the original Mac OS had needed to support a large body of users who had cursor keys but didn’t have a mouse, then maybe the mouse would have gone away just like the Touch Bar.


IMO the TouchBar is a far superior interface for adjusting volume and brightness, compared to the keyboard. I use an external keyboard much of the time, and that was the only reason I used TouchBar. When using the internal keyboard, I didn’t use or try to use other features. Even emoji selection was a little improvement.

Additionally: I had a recognised screen bleeding problem on my MacBook Pro. I got Apple to fix it. After that, I needed to bring it back to Apple again to refix, because the TouchBar wouldn’t turn on. All in all, I was without computer for a month. At the time, I thought maybe all this was too difficult for Apple to support, and I was sour on the whole thing.

If Apple provided a way to repurpose old iOS devices as an external Stream Deck-type device (or, off topic now, as a webcam) that could be pretty sweet.

If I had purchased another laptop prior to today, it definitely would NOT have had a Touch Bar. It seemed like a solution without a problem. I’m pleased to see it gone.

The Touch Bar was a nice idea but 2 problems. Lack of tactile feel, you had to look at it. More important, Apple just never did anything with it. If Apple spent the past 5 years improving it perhaps it would be a must have feature.

@MMTalker… I love it. And I know others who do!

The butterfly keyboard, on the other hand, is a disaster. I’ve had keycaps replaced four times and the entire keyboard replaced once (upside: a new battery comes along for the ride).

My 2019 16" MacBook Pro has one, and I loved it for movie playback (adjust the brightness of the screen, the volume, sroll forward or back in time effortlessly, wake up th laptop with the adjacent TouchID key. But I never learned to use it to enter emojis or to do anything application-specific, and when my own carelessness with crumbs and coffee made me aware of how RIDIICULOUSLY expensive it would be to do any keyboard repairs because of that tiny horizontal strip screen, I realized it was not going to endure. The other evidence, from the beginning, was the lack of any real evidence that Apple promised to bring it to external keyboards.

The TouchBar was an interesting idea that I don’t think works very well. Based on it’s location and appearance (and the way it replaced the function key row), it seems like it wants to be part of the keyboard, but it is completely jarring whenever I push the buttons on the TouchBar with my fingers. They expect it to feel like pressing a keyboard key, and instead it has zero physical feedback. It just feels wrong.

Furthermore, it mostly duplicates controls also available elsewhere (by design and by necessity, since not all Macs had a TouchBar), so it’s an additional place to look for a way to do something—I don’t want more places to search for actionable interface elements!

The one thing I do like about it is that its controls for adjusting volume & brightness are better than single press buttons and probably better than mouse- or touchpad-controlled sliders.

It might have done better if it were at the bottom of the screen rather than the top of the keyboard. But then you run into weird interface issues where only part of the screen is touch-sensitive, so that’s no good, either.

I can see the potential value of putting stuff that otherwise sits as icons in the menubar into the TouchBar instead. That seems like a better use to me than having a bunch of functions that constantly change as you switch between windows. If it didn’t replace the physical function keys, held all those always-present menu bar icons, and had a better “feel” for interacting (give it texture & haptic feedback like a touchpad), then maybe it would have been more successful?

I think you’ve got a key point here. Had Apple provided the Touch Bar (or something similar) in addition to the function keys instead of as a replacement for them, it might have been more useful.

One interesting variation on this theme is being sold by Asus. Several of their laptops offer a “ScreenPad”, where the trackpad doubles up as a secondary screen. It extends the desktop and can be used to dock things like full-screen apps and tool bars/palettes.

They also sell ZenBook Duo laptops, where there is an entire second (touch) display, between the keyboard and main display. Like the ScreenPad, it extends the desktop and can be used to dock application windows. In order to make room for the second screen, they moved the trackpad to the right of they keyboard where it can also double-up as a numeric keypad.

Both of these demonstrate variations on the touch-bar theme. I’d love to read about how well they work in practice, because they look really awesome in promotional photos.

I always wondered why they never integrated the touch bar into their Bluetooth keyboards, figured it had circuitry or other issues that required more than Bluetooth could reasonably offer.

If you had Better Touch Tool and Aqua Touch loaded, your function keys were one keystroke away.

The Touchbar is an amazing addition to the Mac and could be programmed using BTT and Aqua Touch to intuitively do whatever you wanted.

Apple’s software for the Touchbar was worse than awful. It did pretty much nothing.

I will now hold on to my 2018 MBP, keeping my Touchbar until I have no choice but to go to M1. And I will write to Tim Cook to ask that he bring back by u

Dumping the Touchbar because Apple was too dumb to fully exploit its capabilities will go down in Apple history as one of Apple’s worst decisions.

Before you disagree, download the free Better Touch Tool and Aqua Touch and check it out and see for yourself what Apole just took away.

When I was purchasing a replacement MBPro in 2018, I went out of my way to seek out a non-Touch Bar version, which as I recall was actually a few dollars more expensive. The ESC key is a muscle-memory staple for me, and while I don’t use all of the Function keys every day, I use them enough that I would miss them.

I’ve sometimes thought what Apple really wanted to do was individual keycaps whose legends would change based on language, context, or other criteria defined by software developers…like what you get on iOS.

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I’d love that as well. Unfortunately, every attempt at a physical keyboard with in-key displays has either been bad, expensive or both. And a purely virtual keyboard (e.g. giant touch screen) is also bad, because it becomes really difficult to touch-type when there are no physical keys.

I have seen this concept as a specialized keypad (e.g. Elgato Stream Deck), but it’s pretty pricey with only 15 buttons. It would probably become prohibitively expensive if they tried to make a 105-key version. (And buttons suitable for a control-deck are not likely to be comfortable for touch-typing.)

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I initially had great hopes for TouchBar. However, when Apple did not provide any way to extend it to the desktop, I lost hope that it would ever amount to much. Although an integrated Apple-branded keyboard would have been one way to do it, I think that a better solution would have been as a separate piece of hardware that could have been placed behind whatever keyboard you used.

As one who primarily uses an iMac, but also daily uses a MacBookPro, the fact that it never crossed over kept me from learning how to efficiently use it for most tasks. The one gesture that I really appreciated was the ability to reduce changing screen brightness and speaker volume each to one key, which, when held down, turned the rest of the TouchBar into a slider controlled by moving that finger.