Deep Dive: Touch Bar

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The Touch Bar is a feature available on certain models of MacBook Pro, and allows you certain gestures and controls to adjust the settings. The Touch Bar automatically adjusts itself depending on the application you are currently using, so make sure to take note of the features the Touch Bar allows you to access as you move between applications. For example, if you are using your Safari or Google Chrome browser, the Touch Bar will allow you switch between or close tabs, as well as open new ones. If you are using the Photos application, the Touch Bar will allow you to scroll quickly through all of your photographs.

Control Strip

Accessible through the Touch Bar on the far right hand side is the control strip. These buttons allow you to adjust system settings such as volume, display brightness, keyboard brightness, and Siri. To adjust the setting, simply select the button that correlates to the setting you are trying to change, a slider will populate that you can then adjust using your finger.

The control strip is expandable, so you can access more controls and commands by selecting the arrow symbol that points to the left. In the expanded strip you now have access to: Mission Control, Launchpad, music or video rewind, pause/play and fast forward, and volume. You can then reduce the control strip by selecting the “X” icon on the far left.

Customize Your Touch Bar

There are certain customizable features available for your touch bar, which you can adjust through your System Preferences. To adjust your Touch Bar settings, open “System Preferences” and select “Keyboard,” then select the “Keyboard” tab, then select “customize control strip.”

From here you can set certain preferences for your Touch Bar, these preferences are listed below.

  • “Touch Bar Shows”: this pop up menu allows you to select what buttons populate on your Touch Bar in different applications, as well as the full control strip.
    • You can also unselect the “Show Control Strip” box if you prefer for your control strip to be hidden when you are in an application, so that only the app buttons will display.
    • “Press and Hold Fn Key”: this pop up menu allows you to change what happens when you press the function key, for example you can set your touch bar to display the control strip or function keys when you hold down the Fn key.
  • “Customize Control Strip”: Once you have selected this option, you can use your touch bar to drag or rearrange buttons on your control strip, as well as remove certain buttons. Make sure to expand your control strip when using these features, so that you have full access to the control strip as you make your changes.
    • To add a button, use your mouse or trackpad to drag a button from the “Keyboard” window in System Preferences onto the Touch Bar.
    • To remove a button, use your mouse or trackpad to select a button and drag it off the Touch Bar and onto your screen.
    • To change the position of a button, use your mouse or trackpad to select and drag the button to the desired location, then release.
    • To finalize your changes, select “done” on the Touchbar window, or on the Touch Bar itself, if it appears.

In addition to changing the buttons in the control strip, you can also adjust the app buttons for certain applications. To do so, follow these steps.

  • While in the application whose app buttons you would like to change, select “View” from the Menu Bar, and in the drop down menu select “Customize Touch Bar.”
  • From here, a similar window should appear, from which you can use the gestures to add, remove or rearrange pre-existing controls.
    • Make sure to select “Done” when you have finished your adjustments in order to finalize your changes.

Zoom In On the Touch Bar

If you are having trouble seeing the buttons on your Touch Bar, you can add a feature called “Zoom In” that will then show your Touch Bar, enlarged, on your screen.

To turn on this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open “System Preferences.” Select “Accessibility,” then select “Zoom.”
  • To turn on the Zoom In feature, select the box titled “Enable Touch Bar Zoom.”

To use this feature once it is turned on, simply press and hold your finger to your Touch Bar, a circle should appear under your finger, and your Touch Bar will appear on your screen, with the same circle, in the same placement, showing on this version as well. You can then drag your finger over the button that you would like to enlarge, it will then appear larger on your display. The button will then change to blue when this feature is activated. If you would like to interact with the selected item, simply drag your finger so that the circle contains the button you would like to use, make sure that the color of the button changes, and then release your finger.

Once you release your finger, the Touch Bar will no longer show your screen.

You can also increase or decrease the level of zoom by either pinching or spreading apart your fingers on the Touch Bar. By bringing your fingers together, you make the image smaller, but pulling them apart, you can make the image larger.

VoiceOver on the Touch Bar

If you use VoiceOver on your Apple products, you can also use this accessibility feature with your Touch Bar. When turned on, you can use certain gestures to trigger the Touch Bar to announce what button or feature you have selected, as well as to activate those features.

To navigate between items on your Touch Bar, slide or swipe your finger to the left or right on your Touch Bar. Your device will then announce which button you have currently selected, and you can then swipe your finger to the right or left to trigger the device to announce the next button on either side. Once you have navigate to the correct item, tap once in order to use that button. If you would like to activate the feature, double-tap with your finger. To both select and then activate an item, touch and hold the item with a single finger, while holding your finger down, tap with another finger anywhere else on the device.

If you are using any touch bar features that use a slider, such as volume or brightness, tap and hold the desired button with two fingers until you hear three ascending tones — this signals that the slider is active and can be adjusted — then slide your two fingers in either direction, left or right, to adjust the feature accordingly.