Exclusives Featured

Novelty MacBook Pro Touch Bar Apps – RANKED

  1. The MacBook Pro Touch Bar: Long-Term Review Part 1
  2. The MacBook Pro Touch Bar: Long Term Review Part 2
  3. Novelty MacBook Pro Touch Bar Apps – RANKED
  4. Five MacBook Pro Dongles That Make Me Sad
  5. Touch Bar Update After WWDC
  6. BetterTouchTool and the Redemption of the Touch Bar

This is a ranking of the “best” novelty MacBook Pro Touch Bar apps. If you’re looking for a great productivity app, check out my quick look at the first killer app for the Touch Bar.

Disclaimer: I realize that most of these were put together as a proof of concept for the new UI. Even the lowest rated ones are wonderful pointless oddities that I am glad exist. My critical comments are merely in comparison to the other offerings in the field. My aim is not to put down anyone’s work. I’d love to see more of these in the future.

9. Touch Bar Bowie

David Bowie + sprite animations should have been everything I ever dreamed of. Instead, it’s basically a demo that someone figured out how to put an animation on the Touch Bar. No music, no reactions when you touch little sprite Ziggy Stardust. Nothing. Plus, the little guys aren’t even fully in frame on the Touch Bar. Extra minus for not even supporting Command+Q to quit out of the app. Boo.

8. Dino

Dino gets point for at least being a game. That’s about all the credit it’s due. I love the little Chrome fail looking Dinosaur, and the retro animations remind me of Fez. I had high hopes that this would be a pleasant little distraction. Why did it fail? No music, no sound effects, and bad controls. Dino wouldn’t jump until after you had taken your finger off of the Touch Bar. Just a bad control scheme overall. An endless runner has potential for the Touch Bar. Dino isn’t it.

7. Touch Bar Server

This get’s credit for being a bonkers concept that someone actually put together. The sheer audacity is commendable. I have to respect an app that’s inspired from a tweet. Basically, it allows you to use the Touch Bar over a VNC. You never should, you never will need to, but it’s available. Useless, but admirable.

6. TouchBar Nyan Cat

This app is perhaps as equally pointless as Touch Bar Bowie, but nails the execution. When you fire it up, you’re greeted by the familiar/hated tingle of the Nyan Cat song. In the Touch Bar floats that famous refracted-light-riding Pop-Tart-wearing cat. One little touch that shows some thoughtfulness, the only option in the app allows you to silence the music, which is wisdom at its finest. You get a little touch reaction, but the animation doesn’t really move around, just kind of stutters between two positions. Also, no support for the quit keyboard shortcut, which seems to be a theme with some of the apps.

5. KnightTouchBar2000

This is very similar to the Nyan Cat app with one notable difference. You get the music from Knight Rider music.

Sadly, it doesn’t loop. Otherwise this would be much higher up on the list.

4. Touch Bar Pong

That may just look like regular Pong, and you’re right. The Touch Bar in this instance is used to control the paddle. You get a little version of it in the Touch Bar.


It’s still just Pong, there’s only so much excitement, but it’s basically the only app on here that uses it as Apple intended, to have a touch screen available that doesn’t block what’s on screen. The touch tracking seemed to drift after a while, but overall it is a solid port of the classic game.

3. Touch Bar Space Fight

I was ready to put this app near the bottom of my list. It worked alright when I loaded it, but I couldn’t get the little spaceship to move! Turns out, if you have an external keyboard plugged in, the app doesn’t let you use built-in one. Once I had that figured out, this was a fun little game! It has fun little sound effects and music, runs smoothly, and even if it’s a bit repetitive, keeps you on your toes.

You even get to keep score!

The only thing that’s a little weird, because there’s no background, when it’s just your ship on the screen, you completely lose the illusion that you’re flying through space. Otherwise, it’s pretty great!

2. Touch Bar Piano

I was ready to hate on the Touch Bar Piano. It looked like a total gimmick. But after playing around with it, it was one of my favorites. It’s not going to replace, well anything, that you’d really make music with. But the level of attention on this little app is impressive. You can choose between dozen of keyboard profiles, from a grand piano to a punchy synth base, choose the octave with a slider, and even choose how big to make the touch targets for the black keys. It supports up to at least 8 simultaneous inputs, and actually sounds decent. I think this one cheats a little bit, this is more of an app that uses the Touch Bar rather than one that lives in it, but it works well enough that I don’t mind.

1. Soundbar

Soundbar is a customizable soundboard that lives in the Touch Bar. It’s really the only app that I would consider “useful” for anything resembling work. I’ve done enough podcasts to know that having sound cued up is always a bit of a pain, but the Touch Bar puts it nicely in front of you. By default, most of the clips are pretty good too. You get an Inception sound, an Price is Right fail horn, Darth Vadar shouting “Nooooooooo”, and a George Takei “Oooooh Myyyy”. Plus a bunch of ones in what I believe to be German. Added to this, you can load in your own MP3’s to really make it your own. Imagine, your dream of being a drive-time radio producer can finally come true!

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

Leave a Comment