Improved Touch Bar with BetterTouchTool | Minimal Tutorial

Published on Jul 30, 2020

BetterTouchTool Touch Bar preset

Updated for 2020 macOS 11 Big Sur. With over a year and a half of refinements, I can definitely say I am onto a winning minimalist formula. This has been my go-to preset since day one. Hope you enjoy the read!

Includes support for Catalina and Big Sur. Now with full Spotify and Apple Music integration.

Download link to BetterTouchTool and the UltraMinimal Preset

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

Let’s start 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 of weeks using the Touch Bar, I got over the apprehension. Yes, it’s not perfect, but for the most part, it works fine. And, very rarely, it can be slightly more useful than the old function 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 of 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 function buttons.

This is when I realized 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 to minimize fullscreen videos or escape out of popups

Enter BetterTouchTool.

What is BetterTouchTool?

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

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

Get it here: BetterTouchTool - 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 GoldenChaos 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.

Here’s the thinking behind my setup:

Preview of my Touch Bar setup

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 function keys. It no longer takes effort to aim and click precisely on the Touch Bar to ensure I don’t click a neighboring widget. Now I just roughly slide my finger in the upper left-hand area to press esc.

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

The Play/Pause button controls the current media app. And as a bonus, if no media app is open, it is set to open up Spotify/Music and start playing from where I last left off.

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

Time - Yes, it’s 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 function keys row.

How to Install the UltraMinimal Preset

Once you have BetterTouchTool installed, open up the BTT app.

  1. Download and install BetterTouchTool

  2. Download the new Big Sur compatible preset - ultra-minimal-big-sur.bttpreset

  3. Go to the Touch Bar section with Command (⌘) + 1

BetterTouchTool Touch Bar settings

  1. Click Presets > Import Preset from the Menu Bar. Importing a preset in BetterTouchTool

  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.


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.

Touch Bar settings 1 Touch Bar settings 2 Touch Bar settings 3 Touch Bar settings 4