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I have a Macbook Pro 16" 2019 running macOS Catalina.

I am wondering what controls the visible / invisible status of the Touch Bar settings (i.e. Touch Bar shows ..., Press Fn key to ..., and Customise Control Strip ...) as shown in the red boxes in the second screenshot.

So my story is, I recalled today there should be some Touch Bar settings in the System Preferences, but I couldn't find them initially (as shown by the first screenshot). After some random clicks and attempts (without restarting the computer), the options mysteriously reappeared (as shown by the second screenshot).

Could someone please explain to me, what possibly caused these Touch Bar options to appear and disappear?

(I am using an Apple Magic Keyboard in the meantime. Not sure if this is related.)

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  • Do you ever use your MacBook in clamshell mode (lid closed)? The touchbar settings wouldn’t appear in this case, as the touchbar would not be accessible. They should appear if you open the lid, quit system preferences, and reopen keyboard shortcuts.
    – JBallin
    Jul 21 at 17:30
  • @JBallin Thank you for the hint! You're right. I turned your comment into an answer, adding a new experience of this kind.
    – aafulei
    Aug 24 at 16:19
  • Thanks for following up! Typically when commenting a potential solution that OP confirms works for them (I needed to clarify my assumption), the commenter then answers the question and gets credit for the answer - would appreciate an upvote/accept on mine. I think you can move your answer into the question itself, so that future readers will find the solution more easily.
    – JBallin
    Aug 24 at 17:16
  • @JBallin Sure. Your answer deserved that.
    – aafulei
    Aug 25 at 3:10
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Touch Bar settings are hidden when the computer is in clamshell mode (closed), as the Touch Bar is not accessible.

To make them reappear:

  • Open the lid of the MacBook
  • Quit System Preferences
  • Re-open Keyboard settings
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Belated answer ... to my own question.

Yes, it's basically what @JBallin described in the comment.

Do you ever use your MacBook in clamshell mode (lid closed)? The touchbar settings wouldn’t appear in this case, as the touchbar would not be accessible. They should appear if you open the lid, quit system preferences, and reopen keyboard shortcuts.

I usually use Mac in the clamshell mode. Only occasionally keeping the lid open. After some opens and closes of the lid, the issue appears.

The Apple designers seem to give a "smart" appearance for the system, by silently concealing options that they deem as inapplicable. But the problem is, the idea is not always well communicated. Sometimes these "smart" behaviors could only be confusing.


A separate but related story.

Today, with my mac's lid closed, I happened to press Cmd + Shift + 6 as a customized shortcut for an application, but unexpectedly saw a screenshot of a black bar.

I went to System Preferences --> Keyboard --> Shortcuts --> Screenshots for a check, but couldn't find anything showing 6 there.

Suddenly, I realized that the black bar is actually the screenshot of the touch bar! So I opened the lid, and the screenshot options for the touch bar did (re)appear as expected.

My personal opinion: things need to be consistent. If the designer chooses to conceal the touch bar screenshot options from keyboard shortcuts, he or she should consider disabling the shortcuts altogether. After all, what is the point of screenshot of a black bar.

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  • This is a rant and not an answer to the question as JBallin has now added apple.stackexchange.com/a/426198/237. AskDifferent is a site for questions and answers as described in the Tour
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 24 at 17:35
  • @mmmmmm I dont' agree this is a "rant". I provided facts, detailed steps, and screenshots on a related experience and how to solve the confusion. My intention is to help other users who might also get confused in the same situation.
    – aafulei
    Aug 25 at 3:21
  • It is not about Touch Bar options only and you have in it "The Apple designers seem to give a "smart" appearance for the system" and "My personal opinion" These are not part of a useful answer
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 25 at 3:31
  • It is about the design philosophy behind it. That is not anything closing to a "rant".
    – aafulei
    Aug 25 at 3:36

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