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Apple's new MacBook Pro has no escape key

Apple's new MacBook Pro has no escape key


Virtual buttons are a smarter approach

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So it turns out that images of Apple's new MacBook Pro, set to be unveiled on Thursday, are actually hiding inside the latest macOS Sierra update. They confirm that Jony Ive and Apple's designers have added a touch bar to the company's top-of-the-line laptop. To make room for that, Apple completely got rid of the function keys that've been at the top of Mac keyboards for years. Physical esc key? Gone. Same for the brightness buttons and volume controls. They're history. Apple wisely seems to have combined the power button and Touch ID sensor, though it's not yet clear whether this button is actually mechanical.

Now it's probably fair to assume that many of these settings — at least the more popular ones — will appear on the touch bar by default. I can't remember the last time I actually pressed esc, though I do feel for programmers and engineers.

For me, I'd hope that when I'm doing everyday tasks on my MacBook, things like brightness and volume controls will just be there. Previous reports have rumored that the touch bar will present different controls and options based on the apps you've got open, which makes a ton of sense. The versatility of touchscreens was one of the things that Steve Jobs highlighted when introducing the original iPhone, remember. "Every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons just for it."

Now that philosophy is coming to the MacBook Pro's bottom half. How often do you really adjust the keyboard's backlight? Do those controls really need to be permanent? Forcing people out of their button instincts might also help boost Siri usage on Apple's desktop and laptop computers. I write for The Verge and have barely used it since Sierra launched, which probably isn't an awesome sign.

I'm always going to miss a button in some scenarios, though, like whenever I open my laptop and audio unexpectedly starts blaring. Mashing buttons in a panic is always more reassuring than a pane of glass. As for what else Apple has courageously changed about its upcoming MacBook Pro, well, we're less than 48 hours from finding out.

First look at the new MacBook Pro