Microsoft Office Touch Bar support, which was first announced at Apple's MacBook event last October, is finally live and available to all users. Office 2016 for Mac now includes touchy-feely shortcuts for Word, Powerpoint and Excel, with Outlook support later.
Update (March 16. 2007): Microsoft announced that Outlook support is now available for Insider (Slow) beta testers, with general availability set to arrive "in the coming weeks."
Touch Bar functionality seems to bring the biggest productivity boost to Word, where it plays an important role in Focus Mode. In this mode, the document you're working on takes up the entire display, sans distractions like screen ribbons, commands and additional windows. The Touch Bar contains all the most essential Word commands, like character and paragraph styling.
In PowerPoint, Touch Bar commands assist with graphic manipulation, with shortcuts for accessing, moving and rotating images. In Slideshow View, the Touch Bar includes slide thumbnails and a timer for keeping track of presentation time.
In Excel, the Touch Bar provides quick access to recently used functions, as well as settings for borders, cell colors and charts. In Outlook, it will provide similar shortcuts to the most common commands, but that update will have to wait for a later date.
Microsoft Office support seems like a boon to the beleaguered Touch Bar, which failed to impress us with its value. Still, it remains to be seen whether additional app support will be enough to change the popular notion that the Touch Bar is more of a perk than an essential innovation.
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