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Grow Your Business Technology

Best Touch Bar Business Apps for Your New MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar The Touch Bar sits right above the keyboard on the new MacBook Pro / Credit: Jeremy Lips

The MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar isn’t just novel; it can also help you do your job. The narrow touch screen strip – located just above the keyboard on the new MacBook Pro – provides quick access to tools and shortcuts in a variety of apps. Even better, it changes dynamically depending on what app you’re using at the time.

That opens up tons of new ways to use the most popular productivity apps on the Mac platform. Here are 11 of our favorites.

Videoconferencing is a bit easier with Touch Bar controls for Skype. When you open up the video calling app on the new MacBook Pro, the Touch Bar provides a bunch of useful shortcuts. That includes the ability to quickly mute yourself and share your desktop. And when you’re done with the call, you can tap the Hang Up button in the Touch Bar. It’s certainly easier than moving your mouse to click a small button on the screen.

Workers who write in Microsoft Word will face fewer distractions with the new Word Focus Mode. Basically, the mode strips away the entire UI and settings menu from the main screen, putting all that stuff down onto the Touch Bar. That way you can focus entirely on your document. If you do need to change a font or apply a new paragraph heading, the settings are a few taps away on the Touch Bar.

The Touch Bar will help you make cleaner, more beautiful slideshows and presentations in PowerPoint. The Reorder Objects button, for example, produces a graphical map of all the layers on a single slide, helping you grab and move individual elements more easily. Meanwhile, a slider on the Touch Bar makes it easy to rotate graphical objects with pinpoint precision.

The Touch Bar will help you keep your data organized in Microsoft Excel. Shortcuts in the app include the ability to edit borders, cell colors and chart formatting. For more advanced users, you can get quick access to your most recently-used functions by typing an equals sign into a cell, then tapping the function you want on the Touch Bar.

You can even email more efficiently using the Touch Bar. The Outlook app provides a bunch of Touch Bar shortcuts to help you manage your work email. For starters, you’ll see a list of recently-edited documents on the bar any time you’re composing an email – just tap one to attach it. Of course, you also get controls for quickly creating a new message, and deleting and archiving emails with a couple of quick taps. 

Doing quick calculations can be a pain on a laptop that lacks a 10-key number pad. The Touch Bar is the remedy on the new MacBook Pro, providing quick access to the math function keys in the Calculator app. That way you can add, subtract, multiply and divide without having to reach for the mouse to click on-screen buttons.

Handy shortcuts on the Touch Bar can help you navigate to your next meeting or conference. For starters, you can tap a number of colorful category icons to quickly check for nearby restaurants, hotels, banks, gas stations and more. And once you’ve selected your location to visit, the Touch Bar displays options for getting turn-by-turn directions, calling the business, or viewing its website.  

The Notes app is handy for making checklists and jotting down information that you don’t want to forget. And it’s even better with Touch Bar support, which provides a bunch of file handling and formatting shortcuts. For example, you can create a new note by tapping the New icon, then tap the Checkmark icon to add a checklist item. Other shortcuts let you format your text and apply text styles with a couple of quick taps.

Your virtual calendar is crucial for keeping track of appointments and meetings. The Touch Bar will help you stay on track of your schedule with useful shortcuts for the Calendar app. You can quickly jump between different months, weeks and days with a tap. You can also edit the time or location of an appointment, and even invite people to an event using shortcuts on the Touch Bar.

The Mail Designer Pro 3 app helps you create slick, mobile-ready email newsletters to send to your customers. And the Touch Bar improves the experience with shortcuts that let you format text, change text styles, adjust background color and insert images. There’s also a slider for scrubbing through design templates to help you choose the right look for your business’s newsletter. 

Multitasking on a Mac means frequently switching back and forth between windows on your screen. TouchSwitcher is a Touch Bar app that makes it easier, giving you quick access to all of your running apps. Just tap the icon of the app you wish to switch to, and it pops up on your screen. It’s sort of like hitting Command+Tab to switch between apps, but slightly more intuitive.

Brett Nuckles

A former Ohio newspaper man, Brett Nuckles fled the Midwest in 2013. He now lives in Seattle, where he spends his days tinkering with smartphones, tablets and computers. He loves to think about the intersection of technology and productivity, and how to get the most out of new gadgets and apps. He's also a big fan of vegetarian food and digital painting. In his off hours he spends most of his time drawing and painting sci-fi/fantasy scenes on his PC with his trusty Wacom stylus in hand.