Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Notes on the Touch Bar

Michael Lopp does not like his MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar:

In week #3 of actively using the 15” MacBook Pro, I am delighted by its build quality. I love its weight. Last night, I found myself admiring the machining of the aluminum notch that allows me to open the computer. I type deftly on this hardware.

I am also equally deft at randomly muting my music, unintentionally changing my brightness or volume level, and jarringly engaging Siri.

It is maddening. And it’s not improving.

This is a well-written exploration into the very different compromises required to use the Touch Bar compared to a row of function keys. On the plus side, the functions available in that top row are now flexible and can reflect the needs of the currently-foregrounded app; on the flip side, replacing physical buttons with a barely-delineated touch-sensitive strip makes it extremely difficult to make any Touch Bar-centric adjustments by touch alone.

Marco Arment became so frustrated with his Touch Bar-equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro that he replaced it with the 13-inch model that retains the row of physical function keys. The 13-inch “MacBook Escape” has a lot of drawbacks compared to its Touch Bar siblings — two fewer Thunderbolt ports, slower memory, a slower processor, somewhat slower WiFi, and no Touch ID — so that’s a powerful statement about how much the Touch Bar is impeding his typical usage.

With that in mind, Steve Troughton-Smith is running a Twitter poll on how many like the Touch Bar, and how many do not. With 966 votes in, the split was 51/49 in favour of the Touch Bar. The poll is now at around 1,800 votes, and I look forward to seeing the results. It’s going to be very, very close — confusing for a feature pitched as “something much more versatile and capable”.

Update: Troughton-Smith’s poll has ended after nearly 3,000 votes at the same 51/49 split in favour of the Touch Bar’s usability.