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How to Get Touch Bar Functionality on Your Old MacBook

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A little while ago, Apple released MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar, a new method of interacting with the computer. The Touch Bar lives above your keyboard, replacing the function keys with contextually-aware software buttons that can trigger specific actions. There’s been some hemming and hawing about whether this constitutes a good features, but unless you have a new MacBook Pro, it’s impossible to try out natively.

However, you can add Touch Bar functionality to your old MacBook with some software solutions. With Touché you can add an on-screen Touch Bar to any MacBook running macOS Sierra. And if you want something you can actually tap, you can use a minor hack to get a version running on your iPhone or iPad.

Using Touché

1. Download Touché from the developer’s website.

2. Install by dragging into your Applications folder.

3. At this point you might discover that you’re running the wrong version of macOS Sierra.

You’ll need to have macOS 10.12.1 installed, but you’ll also need the correct subversion, called a “build.” The correct build for this version is 16B2657, which can be downloaded from Apple.

4. If you need to, install the updated version of macOS by mounting the DMG you just downloaded and running the contained install. Once your computer has finished restarting, continue.

5. Open Touché. You’ll see the Touché window, which contains the Touch Bar pop up at the bottom of the screen.

6. By default, the Touch Bar won’t look like much. But as you access different applications, you’ll see the Touch Bar change in response to your context. Go explore!

Using Touch Bar Demo App

You can also use the accurately-named Touch Bar Demo App to run a software version of the Touch Bar on your iPad. While this is a hacked-together solution that you’ll need to build onto a properly-provisioned iPad or iPhone with Xcode, if you know what you’re doing, it’s a little closer to the real thing.

Installing Touch Bar Demo

1. Make sure you’re updated to build 16B2657 of macOS Sierra 10.12.1. If you’re not, the application will not run. To check your build number, open “About This Mac” under the Apple menu and click on the macOS version number.

If you have a different build number, get the updated version from Apple.

2. Download the most recent release of Touch Bar Demo App from GitHub. You’ll need to download both which runs on your Mac and the source code which you’ll install on your iPad.

3. Unzip and drag the resulting into your Applications directory.

4. Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via a USB to Lightning cable. In testing, this did not work with a 30-pin cable or a device requiring one.

5. Unzip the source code, then navigate inside of the TouchBarDemoApp-1.5 folder to open TouchBar.xcodeproj.

If you don’t have Xcode installed, you’ll need to download it from Apple with an active developer account.

6. Click on the name of the project in the left pane.

7. Click the Team drop-down in the middle of the screen under the Signing section.

8. If you’ve already logged into Xcode with a developer account, select that one. If you haven’t done that, click “Add Account…”

8a. Log in to your developer account in the popup window.

8b. Select your new Team from the drop-down menu.

9. Change the part of the Bundle Identifier that says “bikkelbroeders” (between com. and .TouchBarClient) to something unique. It doesn’t matter what, so your first and last name is a good option as any.

10. Click the device display next to “TouchBarClient” and choose the device connected to your computer. It will be at the top of the drop down menu, and will be named something like “Steve’s iPhone” in most cases.

11. Once you’ve selected your device as the target, click the “play” button in the menu bar to build the app to your device.

12. You might get a warning saying your device doesn’t trust your developer account. Follow the on-screen prompts to fix this.

Launching Touch Bar Demo

13. Launch the Touch Bar Client app on your iPhone or iPad, and launch Touch Bar Server app on your Mac. Make sure to keep your device connected to your Mac via the USB cable you connected earlier.

14. On your device, you’ll see a top-down view of a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar.

The Touch Bar, though small, will change in response to your actions on your Mac. This works best on a larger iPad, as you might guess. You can interact with the Touch Bar by tappings its icons, if you can manage to reach them.


If you want to see what the Touch Bar is like, an app like Touché is going to be your best bet. But if you want to get an idea of what it’s like to actually use, loading the Touch Bar Demo App on to your iPad is going to provide a slightly more realistic experience. But in the end nothing will be quite the same as an actual MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar installed.

You might also like:

Are Kaby Lake MacBook Pros Coming in 2017?

Why We Need the 17-Inch MacBook Pro

Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo is a technology enthusiast and digital strategist with a fervent passion for Apple products and the innovative technologies that orbit them. With a background in computer science and a decade of experience in app development and digital marketing, Kossi brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to the Apple Gazette team.

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