The 12 best creative Mac apps with Touch Bar support

Creatives looked on with suspicion when Apple debuted the new MacBook Pro. On stage, pro apps were demoed by people tapping and pawing at a little strip where the function keys used to be. How we laughed. No actual professional would ever use that in the real world!

And then we got hold of one. 

It turns out the Touch Bar is an interesting and genuinely useful method of boosting efficiency – a kind of ‘third way’ that’s more smart keyboard than tiny touchscreen. For creative apps, that means putting more tools and control right at your fingertips – as this great selection shows… 

01. Adobe Photoshop CC

Want to lovingly stroke Photoshop tools? Now’s your chance

Adobe’s powerhouse splits touchscreen support into layer properties, brushes, and favourites (user-configurable buttons to perform actions like flipping documents and triggering full-screen). Brush properties (such as size and opacity) can be updated live, so you needn’t frequently move the cursor to menus. And the history scrubber handily offers visual previews of each step.

Get  Adobe Photoshop here

02. Affinity Designer

Can’t remember all those pesky node shortcuts? Just tap the Touch Bar

Serif’s vector drawing tool puts all kinds of options in the Touch Bar. Using the Pen tool? You’ll get node conversion and action buttons. Working with shapes? Adjust a rectangle’s corners with a tap, or a triangle’s skew with a slider. All these options are of course found elsewhere in menus or toolbars, but having them right at hand is a time-saver.

Get Affinity Designer here

03. Affinity Photo

So many tools at your fingertips makes you want to go fullscreen

Much like Photoshop, Affinity Photo’s Touch Bar smarts really become apparent when you’re making subtle adjustments to brush settings live, while using your other hand to control the cursor. Elsewhere, Touch Bar support in Serif’s app is more full-featured than in Adobe’s, with tappable commands available for almost every tool.

Get Affinity Photo here

04. djay Pro

No tiny virtual decks to spin, but djay Pro makes Mac DJing a touch more immersive

Touch Bar support in djay Pro brings a little of the tactility of DJing to Mac notebooks. You get manual control of the crossfader, a visual waveform of the current track to scrub, the means to set marker points, and access to effects. And if it all gets a bit too much, fire up the sampler and repeatedly hit the Foghorn button until someone makes you stop.

Get djay Pro here

05. Final Cut Pro and iMovie

Chop out rubbish performances even faster with Touch Bar trims

Touch Bar support in Apple’s pro video editor is mostly about making important functions more accessible. You can make trims, loop changes, and adjust audio volume and fade effects. With the timeline view, you get an interactive display of your entire project.

Stuck in consumer land with iMovie? Apple’s less generous there, but you do get playback controls, a split button, and a clip volume slider.

Get Final Cut Pro here
Get iMovie here

06. Logic Pro X and GarageBand

No more hunting for oft-used controls – assign them to the Touch Bar

As with the video editors, Touch Bar support for Apple’s music apps depends on whether you go pro. With GarageBand, you get level sliders for track volume and Smart Control dials/switches. But Logic’s implementation has timeline navigation, surfaces hard to reach controls, enables you to assign pretty much any action to a Touch Bar button, *and* offers virtual keyboard ivories to tinkle and drum pads to tap.

Get Logic Pro X here
Get GarageBand here

Next page: six more creative apps for the Macbook Pro with Touch Bar

07. MindNode

Get your thoughts down faster, by adding nodes with your fingers

A good example of how shifting shortcuts to Touch Bar can make for a more intuitive app, MindNode enables you to collapse your mind-map to the current selection, add new nodes, and get fast access to a notes viewer. Click the canvas for search and inspector buttons. Start typing and there’s iOS-like autocorrect and an emoji button. Because if there’s one thing mind-maps need more of, it’s emoji.

Get MindNode here

08. PDF Expert

Attack PDFs with merry abandon, using Touch Bar buttons

For the most part, the Touch Bar in PDF Expert quite closely mirrors the app’s toolbars and inspectors. You can switch between annotation and edit tools, change view modes, delete selected pages, and adjust the properties of a selection. Familiarity with these controls should speed up workflow – after all, tapping keyboard buttons is faster than moving the cursor to click equivalent ones somewhere on the screen. 

Get PDF Expert here

09. PicFrame

Make your background neon green in an instant. For some reason

The simplest app in this round-up, PicFrame showcases that smaller apps can also benefit from Touch Bar support. Here, you can quickly but precisely adjust border and corner sizes, along with selecting a new background colour, and change the aspect ratio of your composition.

Get PicFrame here

10. Pixelmator

Loads of colourful, tiny tools! Can’t see your favourites? Customise!

Much like Photoshop and Affinity Photo, Pixelmator uses the Touch Bar to provide quick access to your current tool’s settings, whether you’re cropping, painting or cloning. Note, though, that brush settings do *not* update as you paint – only when you start the next stroke. However, you do get a customisable Touch Bar tools strip, to house your favourites and make them very easily accessible.

Get Pixelmator here

11. Sketch

Beyond buttons and sliders: Sketch comes with a Touch Bar rotating dial

Someone’s put a lot of work in here, thinking about the commands Sketch users really need faster access to. Click on the canvas and you can create a new shape, line or text box. Select several objects and they can be aligned. Select just one, tap the info button, and you can use a dial to rotate it and buttons to flip.

Get Sketch here

12. Ulysses

No, we meant to put two Ws there. Honest

Aiming to be the place where you stash all your writing, this pro-level Markdown app also has robust Touch bar support. Along with an iOS-like autocorrect, Ulysses Touch Bar options include a set of buttons for formatting copy, and a handy icon to prod that stashes away the app’s sidebar, for when you really need to concentrate on what you’re working on.

Get Ulysses here

Related articles:

  • How to keep your projects moving, whatever you’re doing
  • The 30 best iPhone apps for designers
  • Adobe releases new creative apps for Chromebooks

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