Apple Desktop

TouchSwitcher: Use the Touch Bar for switching apps on the new MacBook Pro

Bring the dock down to the Touch Bar.


A few days ago, redditor LazerLex showed a working prototype of a Touch Bar app which would let you see all currently open apps on your Dock, allowing you to quickly switch between them with a tap. The prototype received mixed feedback from the community, with power users poking fun at the idea of switching apps from the Dock instead of, you know, using Cmd + Tab. Yet, the consensus was that it is a cool idea that needs more work.

Earlier today, another redditor dotmax showed a similar Touch Bar app called TouchSwitcher based on the same concept. There’s an important difference though: TouchSwitcher is available as a download right now.

The macOS Dock comes to the Touch Bar

TouchSwitcher works in a simple manner. Once you download and launch it, it is added as an app in the system controls strip on the right side of the Touch Bar. Tapping on it reveals all recent apps, with the most recent app towards the right. You can then tap on any app’s icon to open it on your main screen.

Here’s how it looks in action:

Pretty neat, right?

What makes this app interesting – particularly for software developers – is the fact that dotmax was able to use the right strip for TouchSwitcher. Apple does not officially allow any third-party apps to be shown there; it is reserved for system apps and first-party apps for now. dotmax refused to share information on how they managed to do this. Understandable, surely, as this gives them more time to enjoy publicity before similar apps from better funded competitors take over.

TouchSwitcher is great for a v1.0, but it has its limitations.

One limitation that should be removed quickly with an update is that it does not open minimized apps, only hidden ones. The developer noted that they use Cmd+H for hiding their apps instead of minimizing them with Cmd+M, so they simply forgot to include this functionality.

The second limitation is that apps like Xcode and iTunes can take over TouchSwitcher’s place in the system controls on the right side of the Touch Bar. So, if you’re a developer or you listen to a lot of music with iTunes, you’ll find TouchSwitcher’s experience to be rather cumbersome.

Still, if you have a new MacBook Pro, I urge you to try it out. It is available for free from the Hazeover website below.

Download TouchSwitcher [Official website]

The future of the Touch Bar

The Touch Bar is only in its infancy with the new MacBook Pros. Developers and even Apple itself is exploring what’s possible with it. It will take some time for innovative utilities to be launched, and perfected over time. TouchSwitcher is a good example of an innovative (but now obvious in hindsight) use of the Touch Bar. We expect it to improve well over time. It wouldn’t even surprise us if Apple included such an option in a future macOS release.

I personally will be waiting a few years for the dust to settle, though. I bought the 2015 MacBook Pro a few months ago, and it is serving me really, really well. It isn’t worth yet shifting to a 2016 MacBook Pro that offers marginal improvements and has annoying limitations. It will be great in 2-3 years, though, when USB-C is common, the Touch Bar is well-utilized, and the price for the new laptops goes back down.