Monday, October 31, 2016

Apple doesn't want Touch Bar used as a screen

One of the new features of the revamped MacBook Pro line is the Touch Bar replacing the traditional function row of key; but if you're letting your imagination run wild on the possibilities this opens, you better not run too far, as Apple wants it to be treated as a keyboard and not as a screen.

Apple's guidelines point to using the Touch Bar as an extension of the keyboard and trackpad, not as a display. This means:

  • The Touch Bar shouldn’t display alerts, messages, scrolling content, static content, or anything else that commands the user’s attention or distracts from their work on the main screen.
  • Avoid animation. The Touch Bar is considered an extension of the keyboard, and people don’t expect animation in their keyboard.
  • Use color tastefully and minimally. In general, the Touch Bar should be similar in appearance to the physical keyboard.
  • In general, the Touch Bar shouldn’t include controls for tasks such as find, select all, deselect, copy, cut, paste, undo, redo, new, save, close, print, and quit.

This particular point is particularly strange, as this is the sort of shortcuts you'd imagine to be accessible on the Touch Bar, but maybe Apple has another ideas for it. In any case, unlike what happens in the App Store/Mac Store, there's really not much Apple can do to prevent developers from using the Touch Bar as they see fit.

So, you can expect crazy things to start showing up in these new MacBook Pros, and I think it would have been better for Apple to simply let developers and users figure out the sort of things that will be useful or not.

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