Oh, for “F”s Sake!

With the introduction of the 2016 MacBook Pro line, Apple introduced a number of new features, including an all USB-C port configuration, the Butterfly Keyboard, and the Touch Bar with Touch ID sensor. The Butterfly Keyboard is ok, but I preferred the Magic Keyboard from the iMac. I don’t use many USB peripherals, so USB Dongle Town to convert USB-C to the popular USB-A wasn’t too bad. The Touch ID sensor has been a great addition to the MacBook Pro. However, the Touch Bar has been seen by many Mac users as a so-so addition.

The default Finder Touch Bar configuration on a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro

The Touch Bar replaced the standard Function Key (F Keys) row that sat above the number row of keys on the standard MacBook Pro keyboard. To be sure, the technology behind the Touch Bar is impressive, featuring a Retina Display with touch input. The whole thing is driven by the secure T1 chip which is running a stripped down version of watchOS.

While I like using the Touch Bar for things like activating Siri, adjusting the brightness and volume controls, and media keys in the Music/iTunes app. In my opinion, the Touch Bar never realized the excitement that Apple had hoped. It is cool, but I can live with out it.

The Touch Bar configuration when holding down the ‘fn’ key on the MacBook Pro keyboard

Meghan, who has a 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro, recently complained to me that her Mac didn’t have the F Keys that her fellow engineering program classmates have on their Windows PCs. In typical Apple fashion where a “clean” design is valued over user functionality, holding down the “fn” key on the MacBook Pro’s keyboard changes the default Mac Touch Bar keys into Windows/Unix-style F Keys.

Constantly pressing the fn key to bring up the F Keys can get old quickly if you are working on an exercise in class or a homework assignment. Fortunately, you can setup a macOS shortcut for the Touch Bar that flips the behavior around. Here’s how to set up a Touch Bar F Key shortcut by application.

Configuring the MacBook Pro Touch Bar To Show Function Keys By Default Per app

The Function Keys Keyboard Shortcuts allows you to toggle the F-Keys on when an app on the right is launch, in this case, Microsoft Excel
  1. Open the Settings app in macOS.
  2. Navigate to or search for the Keyboard control panel.
  3. In Keyboard control panel, click the Shortcuts tab.
  4. On the Shortcuts tab, select Function Keys from the left window pane.
  5. On the Shortcuts tab, click the plus icon to add the app(s) you want to default to the F keys configuration.
  6. Repeat this process for all of the apps you wish to add.
  7. When done, click the red close window button in the top left of the Settings window.

Apple Spring Forward Notes and First Impressions

Apple held their Spring Forward event to showcase HBO Now, the all-new MacBook, and Apple Watch.  If you haven’t yet watched today’s event, you can stream it from Apple’s website or watch it on Apple TV.

The following are my notes and first impressions from today’s event.

Apple TV + HBO Now

Apple TV gets a price cut to $69.  This says to me that the hardware refresh I’ve been waiting for is either late or under resourced.

HBO Now will be available by April 12 for $14.99/mo.  This will get cord cutters excited and I think will help drive Apple TV sales.  I’ve never been an HBO subscriber but with a month-to-month subscription, I’d jump on to watch shows that I’ve not been able to watch before and jump out while the show is on break.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay now accepted at 49,000 Coca-Cola vending machines.  I can totally get behind that!

iPhone + Heath Apps

Health + iPhone & Research Kit look really intriguing and can become a powerful diagnostic tool for doctors and patients.

Apple is backing up their commitments to privacy by putting data sharing controls into the hands of patients. Apple does not see the data. Ever.

Google and Android are going to have a difficult time of tying to copy or buy their way into this segment.

Apple MacBook

Holy crap! This redesigned MacBook is beyond thin!

Can you name one company that spends R&D dollars on new keyboard technology?

Force Click will make the right-click obsolete on the Mac.

Next up on Apple’s hit list: vents and fans. Gone!

The new MacBook is powered by the new Intel Core M processor. It runs silently.

New battery technology will give you all-day battery life on a single charge.

802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

USB-C connector replaces all of the “old” cables and connectors. Plus it’s reversible.

Will ship in silver, space grey and gold.

Prices start at $1299 and $1599

Minor spec bumps for the MacBook Air and the 13” MacBook Pro

Apple Watch

Tim shows off my Apple Watch…sorta

Digital Touch is cool if not a bit gimmicky. I’d love to use the tap-tap feature with my wife. Alas, she couldn’t care less about Apple Watch.

The Activity tracking feature is all of the same stuff that other fitness bands can do, but done in a way that’s light years ahead of my Nike+ FuelBand or Jawbone UP.

I also like the “you’ve been sitting still too long” prompt.

The new feature in most excited about for the Apple Watch? Maximizing my couch potato time controlling Apple TV without having to use the IR remote.

iOS notifications coming into iPhone can be sent to Apple Watch. Looking for granular control here.  Don’t want my wrist buzzing all day with spam email.

Sports teams, Facebook, and news updates. Twitter. Instagram. American Airlines.

Apple Pay with Apple Watch looks like a killer feature.

Phone calls go between iPhone and Apple Watch over Bluetooth when you’re out or on Wi-Fi when you’re at home.

Watch works with iPhone.  Only.   Apple Watch iPhone app is where you go to browse, buy and download apps for Apple Watch.

iOS 8.2 features the iPhone Apple Watch app. Available for download today. (3/9/15)

Apple Watch will have all-day battery life. 18 hours of varying uses

Watch Sport starts at $349

Watch Stainless Steel starts at $549

Watch Edition starts at $10,000

Pre-orders and in-store try outs start 4/10; Apple Watch goes on sale 4/24

Launches in US, UK, China, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hing Kong, Japan