One of the newest and very much critiqued aspect of the new MacBook Pro is the keyboard. It is the second-generation of the butterfly keyboard Apple introduced with the MacBook in 2015. While I have been using an external keyboard for quite some time, I’ve been impressed with the keyboard on the 2016 MacBook Pro.
I have actually found myself using the keyboard on the new 15-inch device more than my previous 13-inch, 2011 MacBook Pro. While the keypresses seem a little louder when typing, it feels crisp, which is not necessarily how I would have described a keyboard before. In this case, the actual sound of the keys provides for a greater sense of confidence that I am typing what I meant to type. I find myself looking down at the keyboard much less even though some of the keys are a little different from the Bluetooth Apple keyboard I’ve been using for quite some time.
Speaking of different, the Touch Bar is great if you are using the built-in keyboard on the 2016 MacBook Pro. My use of the function keys was not very frequent before, so I do not miss the physical keys. One of the biggest wins so far has been Touch ID. I can walk away from my desk, come back and place my finger on the Touch ID to unlock it. Or, better yet, if I am wearing my Apple Watch, I just have to get close for the watch to unlock it. Speaking of unlocking, with the update to 1Password, the Touch ID works to unlock your vault. Given how long my password can be just to open 1Password, this touch and go makes things go a little smoother.
Back to the Touch Bar…there are times that it seems a little odd and I have tapped the bar when I meant to touch a number, but having Siri available at a finger notice is great. Venturing over t Settings and Keyboard, you can choose if you prefer the App Controls with Control Strip (default), the Extended Control Strip (this displays what was on the physical keys previously), or App Controls (this leaves just the ESC key unless the app has app controls). You can change what happens when you press the Fn key (bring up the “F” keys or the Extended Control Strip).
One of the coolest things is Customizing the Control Strip. While the smaller Control Strip only houses 4 icons, dragging an alternate icon onto the control bar from the screen is like moving a window from one screen to the next. Having used other simulated screens, it would be an artificial move. With this customization, it is like the mouse actually moves down to the Touch Bar. For me, adding the icon for a screenshot was much more important that keeping the brightness icon there, especially since it is set to adjust automatically.
Using many of the shortcuts in Safari and Mail have been a pleasant experience. I didn’t think I would use it as much. However, with Safari, I find myself looking at the Touch Bar to see what is on each tab and scroll through them. With Mail, I like the ability to move messages to folder with just a tap. This is similar to iOS where is you move a message to a particular folder frequently, the system picks up on that and suggests it when you go to move it. I’ve also started a few emails from the Touch Bar.
With Pixelmator, I’ve only just begun to play with all of the options. However, it makes editing photos and graphics a bit easier since I don’t have to try to find the toolbox that got hidden under another toolbox. I can just tap on the Touch Bar icon and retouch, crop, etc. This option is even more flexible than using Pixelmator on an iPad. Once you start editing the graphic, additional options appear on the Touch Bar. With these additional options, you can rotate an image, transform it, or even flip it. Even though there are many key combinations that do similar things, it is a nice alternative to remembering all those keyboard shortcuts. As other developers bring their Touch Bar additions to the MacBook Pro, they should turn to Pixelmator as a best practice.
All in all, I prefer this keyboard to the previous keyboards. While I am still using an external Apple Bluetooth keyboard when sitting for longer hours at a desk, I do not feel that I will need to carry an external keyboard with me with traveling as I have done in the past. It does take a little adjustment if I try to switch between the two different types of keyboards. The tactile feel is just different enough to slow down typing for a short time for either keyboard.
If you were in doubt about this keyboard or the functionality of the Touch Bar, try it out for yourself. It is better to see how you would use it in your work stream rather than relying on others who are just writing for a review. Give it time and think consistencies with iOS without the annoying overlays of predictive text or spell check.
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