Wednesday, March 18, 2020

two (or three) fixes for the mac touch bar

Like I said the other day, I am not a fan of the Macbook Pro Touch Bar. It's flashy for the sake of flashy: having a dynamic, context-sensitive set of options at a place where the user is rarely looking is a rather odd choice, and there's nothing it does well that you couldn't do with the touchpad and the screen. Making it worse, they didn't put in the same "touch vs tap" logic that the touchpad has, a finger accidentally resting from typing and brushing the surface is enough to hit whatever key happens to be there.

One easy option turns the every shifting bar into something like the old function keys (screen brightness, multimedia controls, volume up/down): go to
System Preferences | Keyboard | Keyboard
and say "Touch Bar shows" "Expanded Control Strip".

It does raise the question, do you lose much doing this? In my opinion tapping a volume up or down button is as good or better than a sliding volume control, but YMMV.

But still, I find when I hold my hands over the keyboard, it's too easy to tap a virtual key accidentally - either Esc or more mre amusingly, I was wondering why my laptop screen was going all the way dark, as if just the bottom screen was going to sleep... turns out I had a finger JUST pressing screen brightness down... also it seems so odd that pressing a physical volume button on my Macbook Air gives that nice little pong sound, but the virtual volume button (already lacking in feedback) was silent...

UPDATE 1: Actually, even going to "Expanded Control Strip" you can still customize it. Since I seem to have much more problem with my resting left hand drifting up to the touch bar than my right (I think I tend to keep my right hand lower so my pinky can hit the return key, but my left hand is higher so my middle finger can hit the "e" key) I removed everything but the screen brightness and volume controls, and put a spacer shoving stuff to the right. (I also included a lock screen button, which does seem at least a little useful.) It's unfortunate that there's a "show all open windows" and a "show all installed apps button" but not a "show all open windows of the current app" button. But I use three finger swipes up and down for both of the show windows actions, so it's not a big loss.)

I found an app that seems promising to help: Haptic Touch Bar gives a little buzz on each tap, and can even do a sound effect. Free to try out, $5 if you like it.

Why Apple doesn't have that tactile feedback built in is beyond me- I'd say it's an embarrassment, along with having no "accidental touch" protection...

UPDATE 2: A coworker recently lived a version of this story - Apple has this wacky oversite where the touch bar / keyboard balance is at whatever it was when shutdown. The fact that this is a feature of "Pro" models is ironic considering what amateur hour problems it sports, even 3 or 4 years after its release.

UPDATE 3: Bar None is a way of making it so you have to hit the fn key before the touch bar is active. I might try this later but haven't yet.

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