Previously on my MacBook Air 2013 I was able to increment/decrement screen brightness, volume and the keyboard backlight in quarter steps when pressing + and a media key. This doesn't seem to work anymore with the Touch Bar on my 2019 MacBook Pro 16" running macOS Catalina.

It seems to work for some people as can be seen from https://youtu.be/_MQFS-0eqtk and https://youtu.be/dTCbKYIqLqs, but it does not work for me. I've tried on a 2019 15" on Mojave and on my personal 16" and work 16" on Catalina.

Okey, I have tried two of my colleagues 16" MacBook Pros and the feature works fine for them. This must be something just wrong with my system.

  • The edit is awesome - sorry if it’s hardware, but hopeful a reload of the OS or Restore / Revive of the bridge OS helps. @ me if you have a follow on question on restoring or reviving.
    – bmike
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:38
  • 1
    It's not, since it's happening both on my personal 16" and work 16", also happened on my 2019 15". This is some software I'm using that is causing it.
    – ruohola
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:52
  • 2
    @bmike Solved the issue! Karabiner Elements is causing it.
    – ruohola
    Jul 17, 2020 at 11:00
  • 1
    Wow! I did’t see that as a potential cause, but the power of group picking a symptom apart and trying things and then isolating is strong.
    – bmike
    Jul 17, 2020 at 20:04
  • Confirming that the incremental (one-quarter) brightness, volume, etc. changes can be accomplished via the keys specified above also on a MacBook Pro (13", 2019) with the Touch Bar running on macOS Big Sur.
    – Alper
    Jul 30, 2021 at 9:47

4 Answers 4


Tap the arrow on the left of the system area to expand the full list of system buttons, then use the brightness increase and decrease buttons from there.

(If you've removed them, you might need to go to View → Customize Touch Bar and add them back in.)

Since those buttons have the exact same function as non-Touch Bar models, you can use the alt + shift combination to get the quarter-step changes.


Quarter-step adjustments are still alive and well.

I'm running a 2019 MBP and all you have to do is expand the control strip and hold Shift and Option while toggling the desired Up or Down buttons.

Control strip minimised:

Control strip minimised

Control strip expanded:

Control strip expanded

Keep in mind that the control strip can be customised, so what I have on mine may be different to yours, but the volume and brightness up and down buttons are still available as options.

I have recorded a YouTube video to demonstrate.


I am on 13-inch, 2019 MacBookPro with Mojave and touch bar.

The quarter increments option ⌥ + Shift ⇧ + either of:[volume , brightness , keyboard backlight], works just fine (same as on my mid 2014 13" MacBookPro did).

One note though: the increments by 1/4 work all the way down to 0 with the sound, for the keyboard it's really hard to tell the difference of 1/4 vs 1, but for screen it only works in 1/4 increment from full to 1 bar; There is no difference between 1, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 bar which is a real shame because that is where it would be the most useful for me. :'(


Found out that the issue occurs only when I have Karabiner Elements running. Makes sense that it has occurred on every single machine I've used, because I always have that program open, but others most probably do not.

Since it's clearly a bug in Karabiner, I've opened a GitHub issue for it.


The issue has been fixed in the latest Karabiner Elements 13.0.0

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