How to Customize the MacBook Touch Bar

How to edit touch bar settings and configurations on a MacBook

What to Know

  • Touch Bar: Apple menu > System Preferences > Keyboard > Touch Bar shows.
  • Control Strip: Apple Menu > System Preferences > Keyboard > Touch Bar shows > Customize Control Strip.
  • To customize the Touch Bar in a compatible third-party app, go to View > Customize Touch Bar.

This article explains how to customize the MacBook Touch Bar, the Control Strip, and how to make these changes in compatible third-party apps.

How Do I Customize My Apple Touch Bar?

The MacBook Touch Bar has two areas: context- or app-dependent controls on the left and the Control Strip on the right. The Control Strip shows the same icons—screen brightness, volume, Siri, etc.—no matter what app you're using, while the area on the left changes based on your activity.

The macOS gives you the ability to control what's in the Touch Bar by default, whether it changes based on what app you're using, and more. To customize the overall look and functionality of the Touch Bar, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu.

  2. Click System Preferences.

    The Apple menu open in macOS with System Preferences menu item highlighted.
  3. Click Keyboard.

    System Preferences open in macOS with the Keyboard preference pane highlighted.
  4. On the Keyboard tab, click the drop down next to Touch Bar shows.

    The Keyboard preference pane open in macOS with Touch Bar shows highlighted.
  5. In this drop down, you can choose the layout and functionality of the Touch Bar. The options are:

    • App Controls: Select this to show app-specific shortcuts in the Touch Bar when they're available.
    • Expanded Control Strip: This always expands the Control Strip and doesn't show app-specific controls.
    • F1, F2, etc. Keys: Want your Touch Bar to act like a traditional keyboard with Function keys above the numbers? Choose this.
    • Quick Actions: If you've set up your own automations using Quick Actions, this option makes getting to them faster.
    • Show Spaces: Get one-touch access to switch between all of your Spaces with the option.

    The option you click will be applied. Close the System Preferences window.

    Want to hide the Control Strip? Uncheck the box next to Show Control Strip.

How Do I Customize My Apple Touch Bar Control Strip?

The Control Strip is part of the Touch Bar and consists of the icons to the right of the Touch Bar. You can also customize them to work the way you want them to. Here's what to do:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard.

  2. Click Customize Control Strip.

    The Keyboard preference pane open in macOS with Customize Control Strip button highlighted.
  3. A set of Touch Bar icons appears on your screen. You can drag new icons down from the set of icons on your main displays down into the Touch Bar (try moving your mouse "into" the Touch Bar and you'll see your movements reflected there). The icons will wiggle like when you're re-arranging apps on the iPhone or iPad.

    Screenshot of the Control Strip customization window

    You can also skip to this step from the Finder by going to View > Customize Touch Bar.

  4. To remove icons you don't want, drag them up from the Touch Bar onto the screen.

    To change the order of Touch Bar icons, put your mouse "in" the Touch Bar, click the controls you want to move, and then drag and drop.

  5. When arranged the Touch Bar arrange how you want, click Done.

Can You Customize the MacBook's Touch Bar in Apps?

Apple introduced the MacBook Touch Bar in 2016 with the new MacBook Pro models. Since then, all MacBook Pro models had the Touch Bar—at least until the 2021 second-generation Apple silicon MacBook Pro models removed it. No MacBook Air models had the Touch Bar.

Screenshot of customizing the Touch Bar for Photoshop
Customizing the Touch Bar for Photoshop.

So far, we've looked at how to customize the Touch Bar and Control Strip, but you can also customize the app-specific controls shown in the Touch Bar (if you chose to see them back in step 1, that is).

Not every app supports the Touch Bar, but Apple's apps do and many popular third-party apps do, too.

In apps that support customizing the Touch Bar, go to the View menu and then click Customize Touch Bar. The full set of options available to the Touch Bar for that app appear on the screen. Follow the drag-and-drop instructions from the last section of this article to customize the controls for that app.

  • How do I fix the Touch Bar on a MacBook Pro?

    If your Touch Bar isn't working as expected, first, restart your computer. If it's still malfunctioning, check for a system update. If these simple fixes don't solve the problem, you may need to consider resetting your computer to factory settings or taking it in for servicing.

  • How do I force restart a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar?

    You can't use the Touch Bar alone to restart your MacBook Pro, but you can use the button next to it, which may also contain the Touch ID sensor. Press the button until it clicks, and then hold it until the MacBook restarts.

  • How do I get emojis on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar?

    The Touch Bar will offer an emoji keyboard for apps that support them, like Messages. An emoji button will appear on the left side when they're available; tap it to open the keyboard, and then swipe right to left to scroll through the options.

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