Microsoft Office and the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar

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

First introduced in 2016, the Apple MacBook Pro includes a Touch Bar that could affect how you get work done. In fact, these feature advances are so impressive, even Windows users will want to take a look.

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

The Touch Bar is a contextual favorite or shortcuts touchscreen at the top of the MacBook Pro keyboard (think: trackpad on steroids). This allows software developers to provide real-time, relevant tool shortcuts based on what a user is likely to need, meaning it changes as the task changes.

This Retina Multi-Touch display is located above the keyboard keys, near where the display screen meets the keyboard.

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.

This Touch Bar could revolutionize how you get work done; and while this article focuses on the implications for Office users, the Apple iWork suite of productivity programs like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and other utilities have exciting Touch Bar integrations as well.

Interestingly, a deeper dive reveals that this Touch Bar is basically an Apple Watch — just a little tidbit for you to nerd out over.

The Touch Bar Customization Options

Users can also customize the Touch Bar, meaning you aren't necessarily locked in with the contextual commands developers add in as defaults. Access a screen that allows you to drag your preferred shortcuts to the bar, in a similar way to other favorites and toolbars you have customized in the past.

All Productivity and No Play?

The Apple development guidelines restrict any funny business when it comes to this display.

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

Microsoft Office for Mac Integration

The Apple Touch Bar can integrate with third-party solutions, including productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office for Mac programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. 

Microsoft Office 2016 users who have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar can enjoy the improved functionality in Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

What This Looks Like on the Program Level

This technology will develop and expand, but at the outset, here's how integration with Microsoft Office looks in each application.

  • Microsoft Outlook: The Touch Bar creates a fast-track to your most recent documents (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 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 a style change to text you are working with, for example.
  • Microsoft PowerPoint: In presentations, the Touch Bar shortcuts offer quick tools for editing objects 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 as well as 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. 

Office for Mac users might just have the coolest productivity tools in town when it comes to office software.

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