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Here's everything you can do with the new MacBook Touch Bar

Here's everything you can do with the new MacBook Touch Bar

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Apple has unveiled the new MacBook Pro and the most interesting part of it by far is the Touch Bar — a strip of touch-sensitive, context-aware display that replaces the function keys above the keyboard. Buttons on the Touch Bar change depending on the software you're using, so that when you're in your mail app, for example, it'll show you a button for deleting emails, whereas in a photo app it'll let you crop or rotate an image.

The most useful keys will stick round in most contexts (that includes brightness and volume controls on the far right, and the escape key on the far left), but the rest will change based on what you're doing, with third-party developers able to add their own functionality. There's going to be a lot you can do with the Touch Bar, but here's what we've seen so far:

  • Edit pictures. In Apple's Photos app there are buttons for adjusting tilt, crop, and adding filters. You can also scroll through your images in a carousel via the Touch Bar.
  • Edit videos. In Final Cut Pro you can scrub through an individual clip or navigate the whole timeline of a larger video project.
  • Add emoji. In Messages and Mail you can select an emoji from the Touch Bar, and it'll even suggest emoji to replace words you're typing. You know, if you hate words.
  • Suggest words. Like autosuggest in iOS, the Touch Bar will prompt you with basic response to conversations.
  • Edit documents. Format options like bold, italicize, and underline are all accessible in the Touch Bar.
  • Control music. Basic playback controls, such as play, pause, skip track, etc., all appear when you're listening to music. Although you can't play/pause when using any program — a definite annoyance.
  • Browse the web. When using Safari you get buttons in the Touch Bar for new tabs, starting searches, and navigating back in web pages. You can also see tab previews in the Touch Bar and access your bookmarks.
  • Manage your email. In Mail, you can use the Touch Bar to create new messages, reply to emails, move messages to trash, or archive them.
  • Make presentations. In Keynote you can use the Touch Bar to adjust things like text and picture formatting options, or navigate through your slides.
  • Access Siri. Along with brightness and volume controls, it looks like Siri is also a permanent addition to the Touch Bar, located on the far right-hand side.
  • Accept or reject FaceTime calls. You'll need an iPhone and Continuity running on your Mac to get your calls sent there in the first place though.
  • Find places in Maps. When using Apple's own mapping app you're shown shortcut buttons for basic searches — for cinemas, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.
  • Scroll through your calendar. Use Apple's calendar app and the Touch Bar will let you quickly navigate between weeks.
  • Touch ID. This doesn't appear to be part of the Touch Bar's display, but the fingerprint sensor Touch ID lives just to the right-hand side. You can use it to pay for purchases, log in to your account, or switch accounts on the same machine.
  • Customize your Touch Bar. The default buttons for the Touch Bar are what you'd normally get on a MacBook's keyboard, but you can switch this up, adding shortcuts for things like locking the screen, taking screenshots, and dictation.
  • Code code code. The Touch Bar even works in Terminal and Xcode, bringing up a number of common navigation functions.
  • Access the function keys. Yep, F1 through F12 aren't going away — you'll just need to hold down the function button on the keyboard to bring those up.

And that's all we've got so far, but remember: third-party developers can also add their own functionality. We know there are custom Touch Bar buttons for Photoshop, Skype, and Office, and presumably more will follow. What's more, the Touch Bar even feels good, says our own Dieter Bohn, who had a chance to try it out today. Maybe we won't miss physical function buttons after all?


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First look at the new MacBook Pro