Bill Roberson / Digital Trends
It's been almost three years since Apple introduced the Touch Bar to the world, and there's still a purpose behind it. While it's no worse than the function keys it replaced, Apple really tried to reach its potential and make it a really excellent part of owning a MacBook Pro.
That got us thinking. Sure there are some killer apps for the Touch Bar? Surely some things make us clear what Apple was thinking when it replaced the function keys in 2016? Well, it turns out there are. We've rounded up four Touch Bar apps and tools that make it particularly useful.
The main problem with the Touch Bar is that it relies on third-party app makers to make it worthwhile. If you're using an app and the developer hasn't added Touch Bar functionality, the Touch Bar will be unusable.
BetterTouchTool fixes that by keeping you in control. For starters, you can add any app to the Touch Bar, not just the ones whose developers added the Touch Bar functionality. You can quickly launch any app you want or add a button for specific functionality (e.g. go to a specific URL in Safari).
Where it really comes into its own are the workflow options. You can create powerful processes with numerous actions and tasks, all of which are activated with a single push of a button on the touch bar. This is the level of control we were hoping for three years ago and that Apple has not yet implemented.
It also remains contextual. For example, let's say you've created a number of Touch Bar shortcuts for Slack; B. Switching between different rooms and direct messages. Upload Slack and these shortcuts will now appear on the Touch Bar.
BetterTouchTool is not only intended for the Touch Bar. You can use it to create your own trackpad gestures, keyboard shortcuts, text triggers, and much more. It's a superbly well-rounded app that makes the Touch Bar the powerful tool it was always intended for.
Many Mac users prefer to hide the Dock because it only appears when the mouse pointer is moved to the bottom of the screen. This saves space and decodes your desktop, but it can be a delay waiting for the dock to reappear when needed.
With Pock, you can manage a clean desktop without a dock, while also having quick access to apps in the dock. To do this, add your Dock and all of its icons to the Touch Bar, including notification notifications, so you don't miss any updates for your apps. You can even quickly switch between open windows in any app. The preview is displayed in the touch bar.
That in itself would make it a very handy quick access app, but it can do a lot more. It contains a number of preset widgets that add status indicators for WiFi, battery life, and the date and time. a now-playing music widget that lets you play, pause, skip, and more; and a Control Center widget where you can adjust settings like brightness and volume. The developer is working on further widgets to improve functionality.
All widgets can be customized as you like, and the creator even creates a kit that other developers can use to add their own widgets. Whether you just want quick access to the dock in your Touch Bar or a little more, Pock is well worth a look.
A major problem with the Touch Bar is the lack of tactile feedback. In contrast to the function keys (or other keys), the touch bar is a smooth strip, so you don't know where one touch bar key ends and the next begins just by touching it. This can cause your productivity to suffer as you have to keep looking down to check that you are actually pressing a key correctly.
However, there is a quick and easy solution in the form of the Haptic Touch Bar. This download adds haptic feedback to every Touch Bar button, regardless of which mode you're using it in (from function keys to contextual app controls to everything in between). That makes it much easier to use the Touch Bar just by touch.
There is currently a limitation in that there is no haptic motor under the touch bar. Therefore, the Haptic Touch bar provides feedback using the MacBook Pro's large Force Touch trackpad. However, you can adjust the strength of the haptic feedback and add sound too, so getting a little feedback about whether or not you pressed that pesky Touch Bar button should still be no problem.
If you've got a lot of apps open at the same time, switching between them using Cmd + Tab is likely a bit of a hassle, as you'll have to type a lot to get from one end of the list of apps to the other. The situation gets even worse when you try to switch between open windows within an app because pressing the standard keyboard shortcut Cmd + ~ is annoyingly cumbersome.
Fortunately, TouchSwitcher uses the Touch Bar to offer a much better alternative. Tap the TouchSwitcher icon on the Touch Bar to view the icons of your currently open apps, then just tap one to switch to them. That makes it a lot quicker than tapping Cmd + Tab repeatedly to get to the app you want.
There are plenty of customization options too. You can add favorite apps to the list of open apps and hold (or Control-tap) an icon to access options like Hide or Exit. If you want to hide multiple apps, hold the Shift key and tap them. To quit multiple apps, press and hold the option and tap on it. It's a simple tool, but it's designed to make things easier on your Mac.