It is less sucked now
First introduced in 2016, I thought Touch Bar was something really innovative and had a vast potential. The bar even became one of the MacBook Pro’s main selling points. Until I got my hands on the new 2018 MBP.
The Touch Bar has many shortcomings which I can spend a whole day to talk about. Some simple tasks like brightness adjustment, play/pause music that usually are one tap away, now require my attention, accuracy, and more taps. Some applications has different button patterns than the other, which cause disruption to my workflow, and not many can be configurable extensively. As a power user, it is sort of frustrated for me.
Setting asides all the issues, I thought instead of complaining, it’d be easier to accept what I can’t change and change what I can. Since I paid a hefty sum for the machine, so might as well make it more useful.
Luckily, I’ve been using BetterTouchTool, which is probably the best gesture control app on macOS for so long. It allows me to completely replace pretty much every gesture set by Apple on Trackpads, mouses, keyboards, TouchBar and so on.
You can use any of the supported trigger/input types and choose from a large and always growing list of actions to automate almost any task. Actions can be chained to handle complicated things.
My BTT Touch Bar setup
In this particular article, I’ll discuss the way I incorporate the TouchBar into a better experience for my casual work flow using BTT. My goal is to transform tasks that require two or more gestures/actions and my attention to only one tap.
I found myself switching between my wireless headphone and speaker quite often at home or at work. On the other hand, sometimes I’d like to disable Bluetooth altogether. So this activity usually requires my manual work of going to bluetooth menu and clicking on the desired options.
Now by adding a few buttons which are equipped with some automator AppleScripts on the TouchBar, I am now one tap away from connecting/disconnecting my bluetooth sound devices or just shutting Bluetooth feature.
As I prefer checking my emails on web browsers than using email clients, I need at least 2 actions to open my gmail account including: open browser in a new window/tab and type in URL.
By binding the URL into a button on my MBP’s TouchBar, now I can open my inbox in a new tab quickly with less keystrokes.
BTT has been supporting window snapping for years. It is a nice feature which lets users maximizing the screen estate by dragging windows to either side of the screen and split it, without the needs to manually move them around and resize.
Ideally, I substituted the window dragging gestures with three buttons dedicating to areas where I usually snap the windows into: left, middle, and right.
Adjusting volumes/brightness gestures
Sound or screen brightness adjustments normally require me to look down on the Touch Bar to get to the right button. This might sound trivial, but comparing to dedicated physical buttons on the older MacBooks, looking up-and-down at my keyboard breaks some of my in-the-zone moments while working.
Thus, to eliminate this concentration breaking, I removed the buttons and changed the layout to multi-finger swipes that I can perform anywhere on the TouchBar: two fingers for the volumes and three fingers for the brightness. No need to look down anymore.
Above is a screenshot of my TouchBar setup, in which the buttons are set to have different colors and icons because it helps me know where to press using a quick glance, in addition to being nicer than the boring grey scale and plain looking text buttons.