Apple MacBooks: The power of touch
After many incremental updates over the years, the latest line-up of Apple’s new MacBook Pro notebooks features a “Touch Bar”. This is essentially a slim touch-screen display, placed between the keyboard and the display. It has replaced the row of function keys that have been seen in many laptops, as well as the MacBooks, thus far, and is actually a thin touch screen that allows you to access a number of functions right from the keyboard, without having to go to an application’s menu. The functions that show up on the Touch Bar are contextual, which means they are directly linked to the app you are using at the time. For example, you can format text, edit photos or open a new browser window from the Touch Bar without having to take the touchpad or mouse cursor to the edit or new tab options in your word processor or browser.
Given its potential, a number of developers have started making their apps compatible with it, allowing them to work more smoothly with the Touch Bar. Some developers, however, have actually gone a step further and come out with apps that are designed to run on the Touch Bar itself, making it a small display of sorts. They definitely highlight just how versatile the Touch Bar itself can be for productivity as well as fun apps. So if you have a new MacBook Pro and want to see what the Touch Bar is capable of beyond the routine supported apps, try out these apps.
Touch Bar Dino
Want to play games on that Touch Bar? Well, you can. One of the most popular games is Touch Bar Dino, which is based on the tiny game that is found inside the Chrome browser (it appears when you cannot connect to the Internet, remember?). The game is simple—just keep touching the Touch Bar at the right time to make sure the running dinosaur (it will keep running no matter what you do) jumps over the cactus plants coming in its way. The challenge is to keep it running for as long as possible. Think of it as a very basic, 2D Temple Run right on the Touch Bar.
Switching between open applications on the Mac requires pressing the Tab and Command keys at the same time and then choosing the app you wish to go to. With TouchSwitcher, the whole process becomes more like switching apps on a smartphone. Install TouchSwitcher, and you will be able to see the apps open on your MacBook Pro right on the Touch Bar, and you can go right ahead and pick the one you wish to switch to. It needs the arrow keys to choose the apps rather than touching the Touch Bar itself but this is actually supremely useful and more convenient than the good old Tab+Command key combination.
Touch Bar Piano
Want to take a break from all the documents and the Web and just indulge in some music? Well, if tinkling piano keys work for you, you can play a version of the piano right on the Touch Bar itself. While you cannot save your “performances” (recording is not an option right now, although the developer says he might include that in future versions), the piano itself is very playable and comes with support for more than a hundred other instruments you can adjust from an on-screen menu. It’s perfect for indulging your musical side without leaving the work that is currently on your display.
Yes, it is a version of the 1980s iconic game, Pac-Man. And it is designed by a 15-year-old to run just on the Touch Bar of the new MacBook Pro. Yes, the Touch Bar is a tad narrow to play the game in all its glory, and the space to move up and down is limited, but you can move left and right with ease, using the arrow keys as you dodge ghosts in a maze. It is actually in colour and looks absolutely retro-delightful on the Touch Bar as well.
A very useful app for the Touch Bar right now, Rocket replicates the Mac OS application dock (the strip at the base of the Mac OS display, which has short cuts to the apps you place there). In essence, this means you can launch any app that is on the dock right from the Touch Bar itself, which is much easier, in our opinion, and even looks good—the large app icons on the Touch Bar are a treat for the eyes. And that is not all, another handy trick that the app has up its digital sleeve is the ability to let you switch between open apps, allowing you to multitask easily.