Customize your MacBook Pro Touch Bar, Hide Control Strip, Remove Siri Button, Add Shortcuts, and More

When Apple updated the MacBook Pro in 2016 foremost among its list of upgrades and new features was something called the Touch Bar, a thin touchscreen display sitting along the top of the keyboard in place of the function keys. The company has since launched updated MacBook Pro models for 2017, and these retain the feature. Depending on the app, the Touch Bar changes context and shows relevant buttons for what you are doing.

By default, macOS sets up the Touch Bar with a three section layout. There is a persistent virtual Еsc key on the left, a Control Strip region on the right containing system controls and a middle section dedicated to the frontmost app. 

If you don't like the default options, you can add and remove buttons to customize the Touch Bar to your preferences. For example, you can remove the Siri button from the Touch Bar. Here’s how to do that and a lot more …

Remove buttons from the Touch Bar within apps

Go to the View menu in a compatible app, enter the customize view, and select ‘Customize Touch Bar…’. The buttons in the Touch Bar shake slightly to indicate they can be edited (just like jiggle mode on the iPhone home screen). To remove an item, you can move your cursor down the screen and into the bar, hold down and pull it upwards to delete it.

You can also use the touch input directly — just drag an item on the Touch Bar screen to the trash icon on the left side of the screen. If you customize an app’s Touch Bar setup and later regret it, you can always return to the default configuration. Enter the Customize Touch Bar mode and find the ‘Default Set’ item in the tray. Drag this into the Touch Bar to replace everything with the default options for that app.

Add buttons to the Touch Bar within apps

Touch Bar isn’t supporting by all apps (although more are adding integration all the time) but those that do can allow users to customize the visible controls. This means that in addition to the default set of buttons, sliders and interface widgets, you can tweak the Touch Bar to suit your workflow. But, unfortunately, not all Touch Bar apps support Touch Bar customization.

To find out if the app supports customization, launch an app that works with the Touch Bar, then open the View menu in the menu bar and look for the ‘Customize Touch Bar…’ option. Then click it to open the editing view. This reveals a drawer of options for the current context — in this example; I’m using Safari Touch Bar customization.

To add the item to the Touch Bar click on it with the mouse and drag it down to the bottom of the screen into the Touch Bar. Use the trackpad to position the item and release to place.

Add buttons to the Touch Bar Control Strip

The Control Strip is situated on the right-hand side of the Touch Bar, featuring system shortcuts that do not change on a per-application basis. The Control Strip includes an expand button — the small disclosure triangle — to reveal even more system controls for media playback, brightness, volume and more. Similar to the Touch Bar app region, the Control Strip can be fully customized.

To add a new item to the Control Strip, open the editing mode like so: Launch System Preferences. Navigate to Keyboard and press the ‘Customize Control Strip…’ button. You can add buttons for brightness, Play/Pause, Spotlight, Mission Control, Screenshot, Dictation, Do Not Disturb, and much more.

To add a button, drag it down from the screen into the Control Strip on the Touch Bar using your mouse. The compact Control Strip contains up to four items. You can modify the Touch Bar’s expanded Control Strip too. While in the editing view, press the disclosure arrow to reveal the expanded Control Strip in the Touch Bar. Now you can edit the items in this mode too — independently of the items in compact Control Strip.

How to Remove Siri from the Touch Bar Control Strip

Some Mac users may find the Siri button on Touch Bar to be less than useful, and some may accidentally hit the Siri button and inadvertently trigger Siri when trying to hit another key on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar keyboard. If you don’t want Siri so readily available on your Pro Mac for whatever reason, you can remove Siri from the Touch Bar on a Mac.

Note that by removing Siri from Touch Bar on MacBook Pro you are not disabling Siri on the Mac or otherwise getting rid of Siri, you’re only removing the Siri button on the Touch Bar itself. Siri can still be used by any other Siri summoning method.

Luckily, you can remove items from the Control Strip as well. To remove the Siri button, open the Control Strip editing mode (System Preferences → Keyboard → Customize Control Strip…) and move your mouse into the Touch Bar screen. Move your trackpad until the Siri button is highlighted (or whatever icon you want to remove), click to select and pull it upwards out of the Touch Bar to remove it.

You can remove items in the expanded view too — just press the expand arrow while in editing mode to change context. If you want to, you can remove the colorful Siri icon from both parts of the Control Strip.

Hide the Control Strip, maximizing Touch Bar app region

If you don’t like the persistent Control Strip, you can actually turn it off completely. This saves about a fifth part of the display’s area, but not all of Touch Bar apps use the additional space.

To disable the Control Strip, open System Preferences, select Keyboard and open the drop-down labeled ‘Touch Bar shows.’ The default is ‘App Controls with Control Strip.’ Select ‘App Controls’ to remove the Control Strip entirely.

You can also opt only to display the Expanded Control Strip and never show dynamic app buttons and sliders. This is not recommended as you lose much of the Touch Bar’s potential as a contextually relevant, rich UI. 

Hide QuickType typing suggestions

Besides changing the organization of buttons, there are some on-the-fly customizations you can do with the Touch Bar. Typing suggestions is a common feature for the center segment when the cursor is focused in a text field, but they may not be needed all the time. As for me, the animated motion distracting. To hide the suggestions, tap the little arrow next to the three-pane-bar and QuickType shrinks down for that session. In some apps, it exempts space for alternative buttons and controls.

When playing background music, a new ‘Now Playing’ Control Strip item will appear for compatible apps; the icon looks like a mini volume EQ. For example, start playing a song in iTunes and then tab away to another app. Tap on this to see a scrubber for the currently playing track, play/pause, and back/forward transport buttons to control the active playlist. What’s special about the Now Playing screen is that it is persistent; if you change apps, the music controls will continue to be presented on Touch Bar for as long as the app is playing audio. Press the close button (hit the ‘x’ on the left) at any time to return to the usual contextual controls.

FaceTime also supports this kind of persistent bar. While on a call, a green ‘call’ button will appear on the Control Strip. When pressed, it shows the FaceTime call status and quick actions to end the call or mute. While expanded, this view continues to display regardless of what app you are in. Tap the ‘x’ to return to normal Touch Bar functionality.

How to show Expanded Control Strip with the FN key, not function keys

Removing the traditional physical row of keys with the dynamic Touch Bar was going to be controversial, so Apple added a return to the old behavior. Simply press the ‘fn’ key in the bottom-left corner to instantly show a row of F-keys on the Touch Bar.

To embrace the rich world of the Touch Bar, you can change this behavior to show something more dynamic. In System Preferences, you can change what happens when you hold down the ‘fn’ key. It can show you the Expanded Control Strip, which you customized above.

Select ‘Expand Control Strip’ in the Keyboard preference panel from the drop down. It’s more convenient than fiddling with the disclosure arrow on the mini Control Strip, just hit the ‘fn’ key with your left hand and simultaneously tap a button with your right hand. Boom. It’s a lot more useful than static function keys, and it makes me use the Expanded Control Strip more frequently.

What is your experience with the Touch Bar?

The Touch Bar is very customizable and flexible, albeit a little hidden. The Touch Bar is all about adding convenience and the ability to mix and match exactly what controls you use certainly helps to push that further. Do you use the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro? Share your experience and thoughts with us in the comments.


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