Love it or hate it, the TouchBar is a unique feature on Apple's MacBook Pro lineup. It can be useful for simple things like adjusting brightness or music playback, or even scrubbing through video in Final Cut Pro, but sometimes it isn't exactly suited to the shortcuts you want or need. You can make the TouchBar even more unique by customizing it to fit your needs. Here's how to do it.
Basic tweaking with the Settings.app
This part is pretty simple and baked into macOS itself. However, it's somewhat limited in the fact that it only allows you to customize the control strip, otherwise known as the set of icons on the right side of the Touch Bar.
If you want to customize the control strip, here is how you do it:
First, open Settings.app, go to the Keyboard pane, and then in the bottom right-hand corner of the window that appears, click "Customize Control Strip."
Once you've done that, you should see the following screen:
To remove an icon such as the Siri icon (which I personally absolutely hate), you just press and hold on the icon, and drag it to the trash can icon that appears on the left side, and it will vanish from your Touch Bar.
Once you do that you can add an icon just by clicking and dragging one from the menu to the Touch Bar. I personally replaced the Siri icon with the screenshot button as I take a lot of screenshots, and it makes the process a lot quicker. Plus, I found myself accidentally invoking Siri a lot by accidentally pressing the button. That's pretty much for the basics that Apple includes, but the latter part of this guide will show you how to make your Touch Bar even more useful with an app called BetterTouchTool. This allows you to add your own shortcuts that can increase your productivity and make the bar more useful overall.
BetterTouchTool: An introduction
First off, you obviously need to download BetterTouchTool. To do this head here, and then click
Purchase Personal BetterTouchTool license. This will then bring you to a page where you can select the amount to pay. You can choose to buy it for anywhere from $5 to $50 to support the developer.
Once you purchase it, you will be emailed a license file. It will look like this:
Just download the attached file, and open it, and BTT should now be activated.
- Once you open the app, you will notice the main interface has multiple tabs, we need to click on the TouchBar tab.
Now click on "General Touch Bar settings," and "Enable Touch Bar support," then close and restart the app.
The BTT icon will then show in the system menu bar. Click it and then click Preferences. Once you re-open the app and go back to the Touchbar section, and click on "General Touch Bar settings" again, doing this will reveal customisation options such as disabling the control strip mentioned above, or allowing apps like iTunes or Xcode to have priority over the BTT touch bar button. Once you've configured this to your liking we can now begin actual customization of the TouchBar.
At the bottom of the main interface, you'll see three main options: TouchBar Button, Widget, or Button Group. Clicking Widget will create an entry in BetterTouchTool, under "Select TouchBar Widget" you can choose which kind of widget you want.
I have mine set to an app switcher which will easily allow you to switch between running apps on your TouchBar.
However, you can also make your widget show things like a volume slider, remaining battery time, an AppleScript of your choice, an emoji widget, or date and time.
- Onto buttons. You can create a button in much the same way as a widget, simply click "Button" on the bottom of the window. But first you need to give the button a name that will show up on the TouchBar, you can also include emojis in the button name. Once you have the name picked, you can either input a keyboard shortcut that you want the button to replicate, or click on "Predefined Actions" to choose from several options that you want the button to perform.
There are several options, so I can't cover them all here, but you should be able to make a button easily by choosing whatever action you want as per the instructions above.
- Button Groups do exactly as the name implies. They allow you to group custom buttons within a tappable group, much like a submenu in an app. You can add whatever buttons you want to these groups. Once you have a group made, and you make a button, it will ask you if you want to add it to the preselected group, just select that and your button will be contained within the group.
That's pretty much it for the basic custom configuration of your Touch Bar. Did you tweak your Touch Bar? Let us know in the comments section below. If you want to see more in-depth guides, give us a shout-out in the comments.