Try a Software Version of the Touch Bar on Any Mac with Touché

touch-keys

Curious about the new MacBook Pro’s touch bar, but not sure if it’s worth paying extra for? Touché, a free Mac app, lets you preview how Apple’s touchscreen replacement for the top row of keys works, and it runs on any Mac running the latest version of macOS Sierra.

This app isn’t practical for day-to-day computer usage: it’s just the touch bar interface in a floating window. But if you’re curious about how the touch bar will work, this is the closest you can get to a hands-on trial without acquiring a brand new MacBook Pro. Here’s how to set it up, and a few things we learned while playing with it.

Using Touché to Simulate The Touch Bar

You can download Touché here. To install it, simply unzip the application and drag it to your Applications folder. You’ll need macOS 10.12.1 for this application to work. If the application doesn’t work, you need to download the latest version of macOS here and install it.

Launch Touchè and you’ll see an overlay window.

touch-running

This window simulates a touch bar, and you can use your mouse to interact with it. For example, tap the arrow to the left of the brightness icon and you’ll see a layout similar to the physical keys on most MacBook models.

touch-keys

You can set a few preferences for Touché. When the application first opens, click Touché in the menu bar, then then click Preferences.

touche-preferences

From here you can set a few keyboard shortcuts.

touch-prefernces-window

I recommend adding a shortcut for “Toggle Touch Bar”, so you can quickly access and hide the program while using your computer.

How The Touch Bar Works: Some Examples

Now that you’ve got a virtual touch bar working, use your Mac and see what it has to offer. Very few third party tools support this feature yet, but most of Apple’s own applications do.

For example: I noticed, while browsing Safari, that there’s a series of screenshots representing all of your currently open tabs.

safari-menubar

Tap them to switch tabs.

While editing a document in Pages, the touch bar offers a few basic formatting options.

pages-formatting-options

You can also see suggestions for text, similar to the keyboard in iOS. For example, start typing “tomato” and you’ll see a recommendation for the tomato emoji.

typing-suggestions

One more thing I’ve noticed: while using the Terminal, the touch bar gives you a quick “man” button for any command you’re running. Tap that and you’ll see the man page for the application in question.

terminal-read-menubar

RELATED: How to Get Your Mac’s Esc Key Back by Remapping Caps Lock

Terminal users are still going to miss the physical escape key, but die-hards can re-map caps lock to escape.

This app gives you a quick trial of the touch bar without the need for new hardware. If you can imagine yourself using these features regularly, consider upgrading your MacBook to one with a touch bar. But if you find yourself preferring the physical keys, you now know not to pay extra for this feature. At least not for now: we’re sure Apple has more plans for this second screen, so stay tuned.

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.