My previous MacBook Pro 15" had physical function keys, which could be switched to media control keys by holding down the Fn key (or the other way around if you liked). I found this very handy, and would use both flavors of keys all the time.

I've just switched to the newest MacBook Pro 15", which lost the function/media keys, replacing them with this super-sexy Touch Bar. But, the Touch Bar is only an improvement if it can be used with the app-specific controls; otherwise it's just a screen pretending to be the missing keys. So, now I want access to all three Touch Bar modes:

  1. Media control keys:

Touch Bar showing media control keys

  1. Function keys:

Touch Bar showing function keys

  1. App-specific control panel, e.g. from Google Chrome:

Touch Bar showing Google Chrome-specific keys

These are mutually exclusive; you can't show two at once. Problem: there seems to be no way to easily switch between the three modes. I can pick any two (switching between them using the Fn key), but access to the third is always out of reach.

For the moment I've settled on switching between function keys and app controls, with no media key access. But, whenever I start playing a video full-screen and find it too loud or too soft, I have to mouse to the top, wait for the menubar to appear, click the tiny speaker icon and then finally adjust the volume. It's a pain in the rear, and a definite downgrade.

Is there any way to have quick and easy access to all three Touch Bar modes? (I'm using both Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool, but neither seems to be able to switch Touch Bar modes.)

  • Not sure I understand your question. My touchbar automatically changes to show media keys if media is playing, and recently even coding IDEs such as IntelliJ IDEA have come up with context-specific controls that automatically appear on the touchbar. What am I missing here? Aug 5, 2018 at 19:11
  • I'm also unclear on this. Can you post screenshots of the different views your looking for? CMD+shift+6
    – JBallin
    Aug 5, 2018 at 20:01
  • assuming you've looked at this? you're aware of the arrow to expand system controls? support.apple.com/en-us/HT207055
    – JBallin
    Aug 5, 2018 at 20:06
  • I've just added examples of the three modes I was talking about. But, I realized that the "App Controls with Control Strip" shows shrunk media controls with the app controls, which is What I want. I'll add the appropriate answer. (Thanks.) Aug 6, 2018 at 0:22
  • 1
    Currently the FN key can be assigned only to two out of four different actions whether being "tapped" or "pressed and held down". I would love to see a modifier combination FN+SHIFT or FN+CTRL assignable to one of the other 4 options, so that i don't have to decide which 2 i want to prefer. I would love to use FN+CTRL to show "App Controls" and FN hold only for "Control Strip" and leave F keys as default for my IDEs and other programs. That makes SHIFT+F6 easily pressable in IntelliJ for example to rename stuff.
    – isaias-b
    May 17, 2021 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


It turns out that I wasn't clear on the four default modes for the Touch Bar:

  1. "App Controls with Control Strip"
  2. "Expanded Control Strip"
  3. "App Controls"
  4. "F1, F2, etc. Keys"

I wasn't clear (actually I think Apple wasn't clear) what the difference was between "app controls" and "control strip". Turns out, if I choose option 1, then I get a (somewhat narrowed) application-specific control bar, plus a (compacted) set of media control keys. So, that gives me access to my first and third desired modes. Then, set "Press Fn key to" to "Show F1, F2, etc. Keys" and I'm golden.

  • 2
    Note that you can also use function keys for specific apps: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/261456/…
    – JBallin
    Jul 19, 2019 at 20:46
  • 1
    @JBallin Thanks: you're right. What I'd like would be to have an ESC key, five or six F keys, and then a compacted control strip. Don't think I can get there, though... Jul 19, 2019 at 21:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .