The App Library in iOS 14 ensures that you can find all the apps installed on your iPhone without having to hunt through Home screens. So if you already have a lot of Home screens that contain a random assemblage of apps, it might be easier to hide those screens than to remove all the apps on them. To do this in iOS 14, touch and hold any empty spot on the Home screen to enter jiggle mode. Then tap the lozenge around the dots that represent your Home screens. In the Edit Pages screen, tap the checkmark under any Home screen to hide it (or tap an empty circle to add a checkmark and show that Home screen). To save your changes, tap Done. As a bonus tip, notice that swiping on that lozenge of Home screen dots is now a quick way to navigate between the Home screens.
Ever since Apple introduced the Activity app to watchOS, you’ve been able to adjust your Move goal, which is measured in kilocalories, but your Exercise goal was locked at 30 minutes and the Stand goal at 12 hours. In watchOS 7, you can finally change these last two. In the Activity app on your Apple Watch, scroll to the bottom and tap Change Goals. Then, for each screen, adjust the goal numbers in whatever way will most motivate you. Some people like setting the goals higher than they’re likely to reach so they can more easily see how well they’ve done as a percent of the whole, whereas others might like to tweak them so the goals are just a little out of reach.
We’re big fans of column view in Finder windows (choose View > as Columns). You never have to worry about missing icons that are outside the window, everything is sorted alphabetically, and selecting a file shows a preview. But the column widths can be too thin, such that they cut off file and folder names, or too wide, forcing you to scroll unnecessarily. You probably know you can drag the handles at the bottom of the column dividers, but that’s fussy when you have lots of columns. Instead, double-click a column handle to expand or shrink the column so the longest name fits perfectly. Option-double-click a column handle to do that for all the columns showing. If you forget, Control-click a handle to see commands for Right Size This Column, Right Size All Columns Individually, and Right Size All Columns Equally.
We wanted to make sure that those of you who work on a Mac laptop with an external display know that you can close your laptop’s screen and keep working. Apple calls this closed-clamshell or closed-display mode. Of course, it requires that you connect an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad, via either USB or Bluetooth, and the laptop should be connected to power as well. Apple also recommends putting the Mac to sleep before disconnecting the external display. Why would you want to use closed-display mode? Mostly to conserve desk space when you have another preferred keyboard and pointing device, although it might also help graphics performance by allowing the Mac to focus on driving only the external display. There are lots of stands that hold a MacBook in a vertical orientation so it takes up less desk space.
It’s all too easy to end up with a boatload of Bluetooth devices connected to your Mac. Apple devices will likely have sensible names, like Magic Mouse 2, but what if someone has given you a device with their name in it? Or you’ve ended up with a device called something really random like f023cp37. Happily, macOS lets you rename most Bluetooth devices, including pointing devices, keyboards, earbuds, and headphones. Open System Preferences > Bluetooth, Control- or right-click a device, and choose Rename. In the dialog that appears, enter the new name.
In 2016, Apple introduced the Touch Bar with the MacBook Pro. It’s a long, thin display above the number keys on the keyboard that shows a variety of buttons and controls. By default, it changes depending on which app you’re in, and it also displays the Control Strip, a collection of controls that roughly mimics the functions accessible from the F-keys that traditionally live in that position. Finally, it includes the Touch ID sensor that brings fingerprint authentication to the Mac.
Since its launch, however, the Touch Bar hasn’t migrated to any other Macs or keyboards, although the MacBook Air picked up a Touch ID sensor without the rest of the Touch Bar. As a result, developers haven’t been as enthusiastic about supporting the Touch Bar as they might have been. Nevertheless, it provides useful shortcuts in many apps, and you can customize it more to your liking. (Plus, although we’re not going into those details here, Apple is making the Touch Bar even more useful and customizable in macOS 11 Big Sur.)
Choose What the Touch Bar Shows
You may never have noticed the Touch Bar’s settings because Apple has hidden them in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. Logical, but perhaps not where you might have looked first if you were thinking of the Touch Bar as an extension of the trackpad.
You have two choices here, what appears in the Touch Bar normally, and how it changes if you press the Fn key in the lower-left corner of the keyboard. Your options include:
- App Controls: The controls that appear when you choose this option vary by app. This option is the most generally useful, though how much so depends on whether the apps you use support the Touch Bar in helpful ways.
- Expanded Control Strip: The Control Strip, which appears by default on the right side of the Touch Bar, lets you adjust common settings like brightness and volume. The Expanded Control Strip option fills the rest of the Touch Bar with more buttons.
- F1, F2, etc. Keys: Aimed at keyboard traditionalists, this option mimics the F-keys that occupy the Touch Bar’s position on every other keyboard in the universe. People often use these keys as hot keys with macro programs like Keyboard Maestro.
- Quick Actions: Want to create your own custom buttons for the Touch Bar? In Apple’s Automator app, you can create workflows as Quick Actions, which then appear on the Touch Bar when you choose this option.
- Spaces: Those who are big users of Spaces in Mission Control might appreciate this option, which lets you switch between different full-screen apps and Split View spaces.
In the Touch Bar Shows pop-up menu, you should choose the set of Touch Bar buttons that you’ll find the most useful most of the time. That’s probably either App Controls or F-keys for most people, unless you do a lot of your own automation (choose Quick Actions) or regularly use full-screen apps (choose Spaces).
The Press Fn Key To menu basically gives you a second choice—press that key, and you can display whatever set of buttons you’d find next most useful.
Finally, notice that there’s a checkbox for Show Control Strip. If you want to take over its space on the right side of the Touch Bar for other buttons, deselect the checkbox. One useful approach is to disable the Control Strip in general use, but show the expanded Control Strip when you press Fn.
Customize App Controls
App controls are in many ways the most interesting because they change not just when you switch between apps, but also based on what you’re doing in an app. Take Pages, for instance. If you’re working with text, Pages configures the Touch Bar to show buttons that let you switch between paragraph styles, apply character formatting, and tweak horizontal and vertical justification. That button on the far right displays auto-complete options for the word you’re typing. But if you have a text box selected, Pages instead provides buttons for opacity, various colors, and line strokes. Select a table, and Pages immediately offers options for adding and removing columns and rows.
Even better, some apps, like Safari, let you pick which buttons appear in the Touch Bar, just as you can pick the controls that appear in window toolbars. In apps that allow this, choose View > Customize Touch Bar. A selection of available buttons appears at the bottom of the screen. Drag one of the buttons off the bottom of the screen and—really!—onto the Touch Bar, where you can drag it into different spots. When you’re done, click the Done button.
While you’re customizing the Touch Bar for an app, you can also rearrange buttons by dragging them left or right (with either the pointer or your finger) and remove buttons by dragging them (with the pointer) from the Touch Bar to the MacBook Pro’s screen.
Note that the Touch Bar is only so big, and the Mac won’t let you populate it with more buttons than it has room for. If you try, the new button will replace one of the current buttons.
Customize the Control Strip
You’re not limited to choosing which app controls you’d like to see in the Touch Bar. In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, click Customize Control Strip to bring up a similar collection of controls that you can add to the Control Strip. Plus, you can rearrange and remove buttons from the Touch Bar’s Control Strip just as with the app controls.
Try Third-Party Utilities
As you might expect, clever Mac programmers have extended the ways you can use the Touch Bar beyond what Apple provides. Here are a few of our favorites:
- BetterTouchTool: For $8.50, this general-purpose customization utility gives you control over various input devices on your Mac, including the Touch Bar. It lets you completely customize the Touch Bar, add and customize the appearance of buttons for all sorts of built-in actions, create dynamic widgets using AppleScript and other languages, and download ready-to-use presets.
- Pock: Want to recover the screen real-estate occupied by the Dock? The free Pock puts your Dock items in the Touch Bar for fast app switching. Plus, it provides useful widgets, including a handy Now Playing widget that can show the title of the current song.
- Haptic Touch Bar: Although Apple built the Touch Bar so it could provide haptic feedback—making it feel like you’ve pressed a key down when all you’ve done is touched a flat glass surface—most controls don’t provide it. The $4.99 Haptic Touch Bar utility makes all Touch Bar buttons pretend to be physical buttons, with haptic and audio feedback.
If you’ve been ignoring the Touch Bar because it didn’t work the way you wanted, or if you’ve liked using it but wished it could do more, give these customization options a try!
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
Social Media: Do you love, hate, or just ignore the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro? Regardless, take a look at these ways of customizing it, and perhaps you’ll end up liking it more.
On the Mac, scroll bars are essential for both orienting yourself and navigating within a Web page or document window. But they may not appear unless you hover the pointer over the right spot or start scrolling with a gesture on a trackpad or a turn of a mouse scroll wheel. If that bothers you, go to System Preferences > General and under Show Scroll Bars, select Always. That way, scroll bars will always be visible without you having to guess where they are or perform some incantation to reveal them.
If you have lots of apps on your iPhone or iPad, rearranging their icons on your Home screens by dragging from page to page is tedious. Although the new App Library promised for iOS 14 later this year will help you find apps, rearranging them will still be a manual process. To make organizing your Home screens easier, try using the Dock as a temporary shelf. Touch and hold on any icon and then tap Edit Home Screen (or just start dragging) to start all the icons wiggling. Then, navigate to your rightmost Home screen and drag one icon off the Dock temporarily. Now, for other icons you want to move between screens, drag the icon to the Dock, swipe quickly to view the desired screen, and then drag the icon off the Dock into the position you want. When you’re done, put your original Dock icon back and swipe up (on Face ID devices) or press the Home button (on Touch ID devices) to stop the icons from wiggling.
Since iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple has supported Group FaceTime, which lets you have a video call with up to 32 people. However, as has become painfully obvious in today’s era of non-stop videoconferencing, Group FaceTime has a feature that some find obnoxious: automatic speaking prominence that causes the video tile for the speaker to grow and move around. Happily, Apple finally took the feedback and added options to disable that feature in iOS 13.5, iPadOS 13.5, and macOS 10.15.5 Catalina. In iOS and iPadOS, disable the Speaking option under Automatic Prominence in Settings > FaceTime; on the Mac, look in FaceTime > Preferences.
When you’re in the Finder, choosing File > New Finder Window does, as you’d expect, open a new Finder window. But what folder appears in that window? By default, new Finder windows open to Recents, which is a built-in smart folder showing recently opened documents. If you’d prefer to see items in a fixed location on your drive, go to Finder > Preferences > General and choose any location from the New Finder Windows Show pop-up menu. We’re partial to Desktop or Documents, but you can choose whatever folder makes sense with your workflow.