Touch Bar pros and cons

Thanks for yet another great article, @Adam. Very useful.

But why the hate for the Touch Bar? Count me in as a albatross groupie and fan (“the Touch Bar albatross”). It’s very useful “out-of-the-box”, and nicely customizable with BetterTouchTool.

I like the Touch Bar personally and think it’s a shame it’s had such negativity. I’ve used some of the function keys for decades, but others are completely untouched throughout my ownership. It’s a waste of space.

But for those like yourself who prefer the physical key layout … can’t you simply configure the Touch Bar to match that layout?

It’s problematic; I had replied to a similar question earlier so I will quote myself:

1 Like

Did you try customising it?

What are the keys that you’re constantly using and perhaps if it’s essentially the escape-key, you could simply assign another keyboard-shortcut to it, e.g. set the fn key to esc? I have the fn key open the keyboard panel. I never used it prior to that.

I have spent money (and effort) on Better Touch Tool and another app that I cannot remember, but they simply did not work for me.

They did not solve the biggest problem for me - I am a touch typist and no matter how I customise the Touch Bar, I have to take my eyes off the screen to activate a button. By the time I relocate the cursor on my screen, I forgot what the function I was coding was supposed to do next.

I was unable to train my fingers to assume such consistent muscle memory, and it was even worse when the positioning is different for every app, or states in an app.

While I have moved to the MBP 14, I still have a “Touch Bar” of sorts though - the Stream Deck XL. It is much better because there are physical buttons instead of being a continuous strip, so I can still rely on tactile feel to position my fingers.

For example, I can activate different screens, cameras and lights while in a Zoom session using OBS and the Stream Deck without looking away; I imagine it’s very hard to do with the Touch Bar. I can also program macros to go with the keys which supplements the function keys on the Mac.

I guess different people value the trade-offs differently; I do miss the Touch Bar’s ability to make smooth gradient changes (e.g. display brightness and sound volume). But the downsides far outweigh the benefits in my use case.

I understand the constraints regarding your work/field. I have a similar situation where I have learned and adapted wacom tablets over almost 30 years, so I don’t have to look away from the monitor, which is so counter intuitive when working visually.

However, the reason I was asking about which keys was because if it is primarily the ESC key that you are most stumped by, then you could for example, assign the Fn key, to be an ESC key. I’d say the Fn key is just as good, because it’s un-missable down in the corner. Perhaps not quite as easy, but almost. Anyway … switching the Fn key to be an ESC key, is built-in to the OS. You can access it in SystemPrefs/Keyboard/ModifiersKeys.

The new 13" MBP has a physical ESC key to the left of the touch-bar. The previous generation of MBP’s with touch bars also have that (but the first-generation TouchBars do not).

FWIW, I use the Fn keys quite a bit on my Mac. Especially with Microsoft Office. I use keyboard shortcuts for most editing/formatting operations so I don’t need to move my hand to the mouse while I’m working on a document.