How to permanently display the function keys for certain apps in the MacBook Pro Touch Bar

If you have apps that rely heavily on the function keys, Jack Wallen shows you how to make those keys always show in the Touch Bar.

Image: Jack Wallen

I'm a fan of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar. There, I said it. Even though the detractors would say it's nothing more than Apple trying to convince you of something you don't really need, I find it to be a tool that empowers my efficiency on the platform.

That Touch Bar is capable of making your workflow a bit easier. But there's one sticking point—the function keys. In order to gain access to them, you must first hit the fn key, at which point they will appear on the Touch Bar. But what if you have particular apps that make heavy use of the function keys? You certainly don't want to have to constantly hit the fn key just to gain access to F1, F2, F3, etc. Having to do that throughout your workday can add significant keystrokes to an already carpal tunnel-inducing nine-to-five.

Fortunately, the Apple developers thought of that, and I'm here to show you how to make the function keys always appear in the Touch Bar, for specific apps. You can set this up for as many apps as you need. Once configured, all you have to do is open the app in question and the Touch Bar will reveal F1-F12, ready for action.

Setting this up

To enable the function keys for an app, click the Apple menu (upper left corner of the desktop) and then click System Preferences. Click on Keyboard and then the Shortcuts tab. Within this new window (Figure A), click on the Function Keys entry at the bottom of the left pane.

Figure A

Figure A

The Shortcuts window in System Preferences.

Click on the + button and then, when prompted, select the app you want to add and click the Add button (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Adding an app for the function key feature.

Go back and repeat the process to add as many apps as you need. Once complete, close out the System Preferences window. Open one of your newly configured apps and the function keys will automatically appear in the Touch Bar (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The function keys at the ready.

What about non-function keys in the Touch Bar?

Once you've set this up for an app, you might need access to the standard buttons in the Touch Bar. If that's the case, what do you do? Simple. With the app in question open, hit the fn key on your keyboard and the function keys will be replaced by the standard buttons in the Touch Bar. Release the fn key and the function keys will return. That's all there is to it.

Touch Bar made even easier

If you have apps that rely heavily on function keys, you should definitely make use of this feature. With even quicker access to the function keys, your MacBook Pro Touch Bar is made even easier.

Also See

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox