by Brandon Butler
I Keep Getting Fingerprints on My MacBook Screen 6/24/2020

I can’t stop looking at that new Mac Control Center. The buttons are so big. I’ve never seen anything designed like that for a mouse pointer. They look just like the buttons on your favorite touch devices, but the Mac doesn’t have a touch screen, and Apple has said they’re not adding one. What gives?

Isn’t it obvious? Apple’s making a Mac with a touch screen. In fact, I’d wager in about two year’s time, all MacBooks and iMacs will have touch screens built in.

macOS 11 is designed to be used with a touch screen. Check out those redesigned menus. File, Edit, View, Go. You just tap— sorry, click on File to reveal the generous line spacing. You don’t need need that much space between menu items for A) good clicking or B) good design. Mail, Photos, Safari, Pages, all of their buttons and UI elements look designed for a finger. Maybe this is a finer tipped finger than iOS was originally designed for, but we’ve had fourteen years of becoming experts on touching user interfaces. Even if the buttons are smaller than they would be on an iPhone screen, the screen on a MacBook is bigger — there’s room for error built-in there.

And now we get the news that iOS apps are coming to the Mac and will run (on Apple silicon processors) without any re-design needed for a mouse or trackpad. They demoed the game Monument Valley, which includes lots of interaction with the screen, tapping and swiping to manipulate the environment. That’s not fun with a mouse. And some apps, like Notability or Procreate, just don’t make any sense on anything but a touchscreen.

The writing is on the screen. Apple has said for years they aren’t adding a touch screen to the laptop, but I think they’ve finally changed their minds on the idea.

When I’m using my iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard, I find it’s often easier to reach up and touch what I’m looking at. Although not always as precise, it’s a faster, more natural motion, and I prefer it. And now, after a few months with my iPad and Magic Keyboard, I find myself doing the exact same thing when working on my MacBook, often with comical results. I’ll reach up and press on the screen. I’ll wait. Nothing happens, so I try again. And still nothing. “What the heck,” I wonder aloud. I press the screen a third time. And then: “Oh.” And I sheepishly move back to the trackpad. And I know I’m not the only one: I suspect there are many MacBook screens inside Apple Park with fingerprints on them.

A few weeks ago I wrote:

MacOS and iPad OS feel like two distance celestial bodies — like the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies — destined to merge in the distant future. We can already see some early collisions — keyboard shortcuts in iPadOS 13.5, Catalina’s super lockdown of the Desktop — and while Apple claims they envision two distinct platforms, hardware and software changes. A year ago no one was predicting an Apple-designed scissior-switch keyboard for the iPad, but here I am, typing on it.

I feel we just skipped a few millions years closer to that celestial merger.

I miss working on my MacBook; but I love having a touch screen when working. I know a lot of people have a MacBook with a touch screen on their wish lists, and I think Apple is going to make all of our wishes come true this Winter. The iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard are all the proof anyone needs that a keyboard under a touch screen is the best way to compute.