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Apple MacBook Pro Touch Bar: What can it do and what apps are supported?

, Deputy editor ·

(Pocket-lint) - Apple's latest MacBook Pros all offer a feature called Touch Bar, along with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Replacing the function keys on the keyboard is a Retina multi-touch display, known as Touch Bar, while Touch ID is incorporated in the top right corner.

Here is everything you can do with the Apple Touch Bar, how it works and what apps support it.

Apple's Touch Bar adapts to the software you are using, whether that is Photoshop, Microsoft Word or Apple's Calendar and it presents you with relevant tools based on the application. This could be anything from system controls like display brightness, to allowing you to format text.

The idea of Touch Bar is to offer something that is more versatile and capable than the function keys that have been around for decades, and let's face it, that we barely use.


The Touch Bar is integrated into MacOS Sierra and later, meaning all native Apple apps, such as Mail, Messages, Safari, Photos, etc, all work seamlessly with it and allow you to perform a range of tasks.

The Touch Bar includes a dedicated Siri button within it, meaning a quick tap of the signature Siri logo and you can ask your new MacBook Pro whatever you fancy.

With Photos, you can scroll through your photo library with your finger, select a photo, rotate images, crop an image, add a filter, mark images as a favourite and move through a video.

The Touch Bar will also present a 'Done' button so you can tap it when you're finished, and you'll be able to run your finger along it to see different filter effects.

You get similar controls and options when you use a supported third party photo editing app too, including Pixelmator or Affinity Photo. 


When Mail or Messages is open, the Touch Bar will offer Quick Type options to help you write an email or message faster, format the text, and present you with emojis that you can scroll through using your finger.

Within Mail, Touch Bar will show options including composing a message, replying and flagging, as well as selecting delete or moving a particular email to a specific folder.

Touch Bar also offers support for reactions in Messages, so you can give a quick thumbs up to an iMessage using the Touch Bar, for example.

Similarly, if you use a third party messaging app like Telegram, you can quickly insert emoji or stickers into a message. 

You can use the Touch Bar to tap through your open Safari tabs and it will show you your favourites, enabling to you slide between the likes of Facebook and Google, with a quick touch opening up a saved site.

An escape button will also appear on the Touch Bar, along with previous and next buttons, and a search bar, helping you navigate quickly.

The Touch Bar works with Keynote, Numbers and Pages, as you would expect, allowing you to complete a range of tasks from changing the colour of text, to skipping a slide and formatting text.


You can search Music, as well as skip tracks, play and pause, ensuring controlling playback is nice and simple.

When you first open Maps, the Touch Bar will quickly let you go to your location on the map, or find nearby places to eat and drink using easy to use icons on the multi-touch display. 

The Touch Bar brings up monthly blocks, allowing you to scroll through quickly and easily to see when you're busy and when you're available without needing to move your cursor.


No need to move your mouse when you get a FaceTime call again. The Touch Bar shows you who is calling with their picture, as well as giving you the options of answering, declining or sending a message.

Options appear on the Touch Bar to help you edit your movies, enabling you to slide through reels with your finger. Of course, you do get other controls too, depending on what you're doing within the app at the time. 

The Touch Bar can be used to play musical instruments in Garage Band, offering access to a range of controls from Tone to Level.


The Touch Bar can be customised, with plenty of options available, from adding a connecting to a server icon, to a Do Not Disturb one, or a new screenshot control icon.

By selecting 'Customise Touch Bar' in the 'View' menu on Finder, you can drag and drop the icons you want to the bottom of the screen and you will see the new icons appear drop on the Touch Bar straight away.

It's possible to customise the Touch Bar for some specific apps too. In an app, choose View > Customise Touch Bar. You'll then be able to add, rearrange or remove buttons in the Touch Bar. Click 'Done' when you're finished.

To switch between changing buttons for the app you're in and the Control Strip, just tap the Touch Bar. 

If you really miss those function keys, pressing and holding the FN key on the keyboard brings up access to the function keys on the Touch Bar so you won't need to miss them for long.

You might not miss all the function keys but some are pretty useful, such as brightness controls. Thankfully can still access all these controls, as well as customise the ones that you want to see all the time, whether that's volume, brightness or the keyboard backlight controls.

To customise the Control Strip: Choose Apple menu > System Preferences > Keyboard > Customise Touch Bar.


Here are just some of the third party apps that are compatible with Apple Touch Bar and what Touch Bar will offer when using these apps. Of course, many, many more have been added to the Mac App Store sice Touch Bars became a thing. 

When in Adobe Photoshop, users can use the Touch Bar to switch between layers, as well as perform various tasks including scrolling through the history of your changes.

Touch Bar is supported on all Microsoft Office apps, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It adapts to the controls you are likely to need, but controls like copy and paste and switching display modes will all present themselves at some point. 

There's a few shortcuts in Google Chrome with the Touch Bar, including a search button, new tab and forward and backwards buttons.

The Touch Bar offers controls for volume, play, pause, skipping songs, as well as shuffle, repeat and search when the Spotify app is open.

DJ Pro fans will also be pleased to know the Touch Bar works with this app, allowing you to mix songs and access various features with your fingers.

Touch ID is also incorportated on the Mac, appearing at the right-hand end of the Touch Bar and integrated into the power button.

Aside from unlocking your Mac, Touch ID will also recognise fingerprints of different users, switching accounts immediately. 

As you might expect, you can also make secure online payments with Apple Pay using Touch ID too, making spending money far too easy.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.