Microsoft Office and the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar

Be more productive in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Skype

Apple MacBook Pro laptops produced in 2016 and later include a Touch Bar that is designed to improve the way you work. Depending on the app you are using, the Touch Bar changes to provide you with shortcuts for specific actions. When you're in Safari, use the Touch Bar to open a new tab, switch between open tabs, or open a search field. In Apple Mail, use the Touch Bar to reply to, archive, delete or move an email to another folder.

The Touch Bar doesn't only work with Apple apps. It's just as effective with Microsoft Word apps. Microsoft Office software developers provided real-time, relevant tool shortcuts based on what the user is likely to need when using its apps.

What Is the Apple Touch Bar and Why Should You Care?

This Retina touch display strip is located above the keyboard keys, near where the display screen meets the keyboard.

Touch Bar on an MacBook Pro

According to the product's press release:

The Touch Bar places controls right at the user's fingertips and adapts when using the system or apps like Mail, Finder, Calendar, Numbers, GarageBand, Final Cut Pro X and many more, including third-party apps. For example, the Touch Bar can show tabs and Favorites in Safari, enable easy access to emoji in Messages, provide a simple way to edit images or scrub through videos in Photos, and so much more.

Using the Touchbar With Microsoft Programs

Microsoft is among the developers who provide customized Touch Bar controls. The Tool Bar is active with Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, One Note, Skype, and Edge. The Touch Bar changes with each app.

  • Microsoft Outlook: The Touch Bar creates a fast-track to your most recent documents in Outlook (making it a breeze to attach them to that email you are ready to send) or calendar appointments from email. It features your latest tools and commands, as well as your upcoming events.

The Touch Bar also features the Outlook Today view on the Touch Bar, from which you can participate in Skype for Business meetings.

  • Microsoft Excel: Use the Touch Bar to access your recent Excel spreadsheet actions. By entering an equal sign in a cell, the Touch Bar activates with these contextual tools. The Touch Bar also helps you format data or apply recommended charts.
  • Microsoft Word: When working in word-processed documents, you can opt for a distraction-free mode that removes toolbars and the ribbon, but you can still access recent tools and commands through the Touch Bar's contextual shortcuts. This Focus Mode works alongside real-time shortcuts to apply style changes to the text you are working with.
  • Microsoft PowerPoint: In presentations, the Touch Bar shortcuts offer quick tools for editing PowerPoint slides you are working with at a given time, which helps when working with image-rich files. The Touch Bar features slide gestures that reorient an object to a better angle and a Reorder Objects button that works with graphic layers on a slide, making it easier to move things around. It can also produce a graphical map of all the layers on a slide, making it easy to find the right object and move it where you want it. 

Touch Bar Customization Options

Most Touch Bar arrangements contain a control bar that doesn't change with each app, usually containing brightness, sound and Siri icons. The rest of the Touch Bar varies by app or task.

Users can customize the Touch Bar, meaning you aren't locked in with the contextual defaults. From the desktop, select View > Customize Tool Bar to open a screen containing options you can select.

The Mac View menu with Customize Touch Bar highlighted

Drag your preferred shortcuts to the bar in a similar way to other favorites and toolbars you have customized in the past.

Mac Tool Bar customization options screen

All Productivity and No Play?

The Apple development guidelines restrict any funny business when it comes to the Touch Bar display.

Apple insists that developers use the Touch Bar as an extension of the keyboard and trackpad (not as a display), avoid message or alert functionalities that reduce productivity and minimize bright colors.

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