Improved Touch Bar with BetterTouchTools - Minimal Tutorial


August 24, 2019


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After spending about a month with a new Macbook, I think I’ve got the Touch Bar figured out.

Let’s start off by saying I was incredibly apprehensive upfront. I’m the kind of person to over-research any tech products endlessly. And if you weren’t already aware - there is a very vocal crowd letting Apple know of their Touch Bar displeasures. But let’s just say after just the first couple weeks using the Touch Bar I got over the apprehension. Yes - its not perfect, but for the most part it works fine. And, very rarely, it can be slightly more useful than the old fn keys.

My first week I spent using the Touch Bar as Apple intended. The app specific controls were great at first. Scrubbing timelines, switching tabs and getting iOS style text correction felt cool. But there always seemed to be a faster alternative using good old fashioned keyboard shortcuts.

It only took a couple days for me to start getting annoyed by the fact that volume and brightness controls took one extra click than before. Even the sliding gesture still felt less efficient and more finicky than the previous raise and lower fn buttons.

This is when I realised that pretty much all I really needed was

  • Efficient brightness and volume controls
  • Media controls
  • And a well spaced esc key that I didn’t have to consciously aim for every time I want minimise fullscreen videos, or escape out of popups.

Enter BetterTouchTools.

What is BetterTouchTools

BetterTouchTools is like the Swiss Army knife of Mac apps. For under $10 I don’t think you can find a more featured packed tool. It provides improved window snapping tools, trackpad gesture improvements, better keyboard shortcuts, incredible Touch Bar customisation and much more.

They provide a generous 45 day trial as well - but trust me it won’t take you more than a couple days to realise how great this tool really is.

Get it here - BetterTouchTools - Great Tools for your Mac!

My Touch Bar setup

After a bit of testing using different presets from the super popular GoldenChaos, to more minimal setups like Minimalist I managed to find what works for me.

The issue with GoldenChoas was just that it was too feature rich. It comes with hundreds of widgets. Most of which I didn’t really need.

Minimalist was great. My setup is pretty much a simplified version of Minimalist.

Heres the thinking behind my setup.

Here is a preview of my Touch Bar
Here is a preview of my Touch Bar

Escape Key - On the left I only have the esc button. Using esc to exit out of fullscreen, or annoying popups is pretty much as simple as it was before with real fn keys. It no longer takes effort to aim and click precisely on the Touch Bar to ensure I don’t click a neighbouring widget. Now I just roughly slide my finger in the upper left hand area to press esc

Media Widget - The centre is where my media display section. I’ve set the TouchBar to display details on the current song I am listening to on Spotify (or iTunes). A long press of the widget skips the current song, and a short click opens up the Spotify window. If no media app is open, the middle section of the Touch Bar is empty.

The Play/Pause button next controls the current media app. And as a bonus if no media app is open it is set to open up Spotify and start playing the last playlist I was listening to.

Brightness and Volume Controls - Having fixed raise and lower brightness controls is always great.

Time - Yes - its very minor - but not having to mouse up to the top to show the Menu bar time comes in handy all the time.

Two Finger Gesture - sliding with two fingers raises/lowers the volume.

Three Finger Gesture - sliding with three fingers controls the brightness.

Four Finger Gesture - sliding with four fingers controls the keyboard backlight.

Show Function Keys - Holding down fn shows the functions keys row.

How to Import

Once you have BetterTouchTools installed open up the BTT app.

  1. Download my preset - ultra-minimal.bttpreset
  2. Go to the Touch Bar section with Command (⌘) + 1

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  1. Click Presets > Import Preset from the Menu Bar. 0C124CDA 7A7E 41E5 A67F 26D84DA66C54
  2. Select the ultra-minimal.bttpreset file you downloaded in step 1. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the install.

And that’s about it. Feel free to tinker with the widgets to suit your needs.

Troubleshooting

Most of the settings should have been set with the import of the file, but if funny things are happening just ensure that the following settings are correct in the Touch Bar Settings.

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