back to article Farewell to function keys and swappable SSDs in the new two-port MacBook Pro

Apple doesn't think you need function keys in its two-port 13" MacBook Pro. But the delight of the butterfly keyboard continues to linger like a noxious emission in an elevator. Repair specialists iFixit had a look at Apple's latest and not-really-greatest laptop armed with the usual array of spudgers, suction cups and …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    This isn't the MacBook you're looking for

    Try the next one:

    Kuo: Apple to include new scissor switch keyboard in 2019 MacBook Air and 2020 MacBook Pro

    That's if you're not bothered about function keys, replaceable SSDs, replaceable memory, or even a replacable power switch (as it's the Touch ID sensor)...

  2. ThomH Silver badge

    Function keys are useless, good riddance

    ... but the virtual escape key is a real hassle, at least for vi. I've been trying to ween myself onto nano anyway but old habits die hard, and the simple fact is that sometimes you need to work on a remote machine with nothing other than a shell so the mere fact that all I ever use vi for locally is git commits isn't much of a comfort.

    1. My Coat

      "work on a remote machine"

      Just run emacs on your local machine - TRAMP lets you edit files over ssh.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Function keys are absolutely necessary for a huge number of professional applications. A machine without them is barely even usable for many professionals.

      Escape is similarly essential. Pretty much every NLE and all live event applications use both Escape and all the function keys, often in combination with other keys. Which doesn't work at all on the Apple Touchbar.

      Sure, you can buy something like an X-Keys to get them back, but that costs you a USB port that you don't have.

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        Can you name some of those professional applications?

        Amongst those that don't use the F keys on a Mac: Photoshop or anything else by Adobe, Logic Pro, anything from Microsoft Office.

        Of other big names I could think of, AutoCAD has three things available on F keys and not also via a more normal shortcut. So that's one.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

          Avid, Adobe Premier Pro, most of the VJ applications, everything from Autodesk (Autocad, Maya...)

          And damn near everything from everyone uses Escape, including MS Office and yes, Adobe Photoshop.

          1. ThomH Silver badge

            Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

            Escape is the indispensable one, absolutely. I don't think there's even another default mapping for 'cancel a standard dialogue box', other than the obtuse route of enabling accessibility features and tabbing along to the cancel button, which would be impossible to commit to muscle memory other than separately for every possible dialogue box.

      2. TTY

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        Long term user of function keys in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign. Automation using scripting and macro features is indispensable to real pro workflows. No pro I know manually clicks on menus to do things! Keyboard commands, modifier keys, function keys. Maybe the pro-wannabes do?

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

          Or maybe the actual pros know that the F-key shortcuts are all available via other keys? But good work on contradicting the many people here who were arguing that pros click on things.

      3. NATTtrash
        Facepalm

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        I agree, Fn and ESC are indispensable. And, yes, of course we all know they can be xmodded to anything you like. But the question is more, should you really have to? I mean, we were talking Professionals™ here, weren't we? Don't they have something better to do than ploughing through a machine, just to make The Professional Tool™ work? Wasn't that the argument fanbois used for years to Niche Non Believers™ in the past? "Oh, that's very nice as a hobby, but sorry, I'm a Professional™ and have better things to do with my time than to tinker around with a Hobby Project™. But...

        It does (again) show Apples attitude in general: they don't give a toss about anything (e.g. customers) but their bottom line and succeed (again) flogging it off as cool. Steve would be proud. And although I have a natural tendency to like a bit of rebellious, I also realise that, if uncontrolled, it can end up at insanity's doorstep very quickly. But...

        What I really, REALLY would welcome if society finally starts to push back the "landfill" attitude of manufacturers, something Apple (again) seems to demonstrate with its latest offspring. Just like the whole right to repair discussion, if you ever needed a definition of the word "silly". Why not just tax it for "wasted resources" for example? Then again, Apple customers might (again) see such a price increase/ silly tax as a feature and badge of honour...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

          "Why not just tax it for "wasted resources" for example?"

          I'd be perfectly happy with all companies being charged the full cost of disposing of and recycling their products (yes I know this will make everything cost more, but the current model is utterly unsustainable from a resource consumption point-of-view).

          1. coconuthead

            e-waste

            At least in my country, Apple *does* take Macbooks back for recycling. I just brought mine into the local mall.

            However, I don't think it's just the lack of recycling people are objecting to. No recycling can be 100%, and then there's the embodied energy making and transporting it.

      4. Curt Vile

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        Apples aren't aimed at professionals, and haven't been for some years now.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Oh, you mean you want to TYPE something? Silly, you can’t use a Mac for that.

    4. TVU

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Under the Cook and Ive hegemony, the Mac range of products were turned into lifestyle toys for the wealthy and the needs of professional creatives and developers were ignored.

      I'd like to see the Mac range become more like Thinkpads with a proper keyboard and function keys, a range of useful ports and with up to date and upgradeable components.

      1. zb

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        Thinkpad owner here. That is why I bought one. The solution is in front of you.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        They were going that way under Jobs as well.

    5. DougS Silver badge

      Why not remap something else?

      Surely there are some less used keys, like ~ that you could remap to escape, and make fn-~ or ctrl-~ produce a ~ when you actually need to type it.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Why not remap something else?

        Well, I guess if my car came without a steering wheel someone could somehow modify the heater control knob to do the job.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Why not remap something else?

          Hardly the same thing. The space bar is the steering wheel of a keyboard, the escape key is the radio volume knob of a keyboard. You can remap with the heater control knob to be your volume control without too much difficulty.

          I mean seriously, unless you are a developer exclusively using vi 40 hours a week it isn't like you hit escape all the time. I have a Linux desktop and do I actually DO use vi to edit files rather than a GUI tool but I still go days without touching the escape key.

          1. whitepines Silver badge
            Linux

            Re: Why not remap something else?

            I still go days without touching the escape key.

            So you prefer the RSI induced by mouse over to Cancel for Every. Single. Pop-Up. Dialog. you don't want to accept? Genuinely baffled here as a Linux user -- it's reflexive to see confirmation popup for unwanted action and mash Esc.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Why not remap something else?

              I don't know what are these "confirmation popup for unwanted action" you are talking about? I use Fedora, maybe it doesn't have them to the degree your distribution does, or I have things configured so I'm not constantly seeing such? Can you provide some examples of what you're talking about?

              1. whitepines Silver badge

                Re: Why not remap something else?

                Even something as simple and mundane as "Ctrl+S" in a new document followed by "oops, I need to change something first". Hit Esc or mouse over to Cancel? No-brainer for me!

          2. DCFusor Silver badge

            Re: Why not remap something else?

            If we're doing silly car analogies, how about enter -> gas pedal, esc => brakes?

            I don't use vi, but just about everything else uses enter to mean "do this" and esc to mean "back off this mode".

            Going all the way back to protel autotrax on dos.

            1. whitepines Silver badge

              Re: Why not remap something else?

              It also really helps when the dialog is presenting you with two options and it is unclear which one is the "Cancel, get me out of here" one. For instance, I've seen dialogs in the past that are basically like this:

              Do you want do stop this operation and lose all data? "Cancel" "Close".

              where "Cancel" is wired into losing data. So the choice is sit and try to decipher the poor English or mash Esc and hope the programmer understood "Esc" == "cancel the stuff leading up to the dialog being invoked". Most do, even if they don't understanding English grammar and syntax...

          3. DuncanLarge Silver badge

            Re: Why not remap something else?

            You dont need to be using Linux to need the escape key.

            Plenty of people here where I work use it with windows to cancel something they have started doing that they want to abort, like accidentally long-clicking on a file name then destroying the original name. They call IT panicking because they dont know what the original name was and they know if they click the wrong thing their mistake becomes permanent. I say "press escape" and bingo, action cancelled.

            Oh btw, Macs can run windows and we have a Mac user who must boot windows once in a while.

            Thats what escape is for. To cancel or escape stuff. What would you replace it with? A dance? Or claping your hands and saying "i believe in fairies"?

            A keyboard has to be flexible providing function keys for mapping to program functions, and other CONTROL keys to provide the user some control over what is happening. If you just want a set of buttons that only let you type words then I suggest your user type is an edge case and perhaps you should just replace the keyboard with a single on off button and dictate to the machine instead.

    6. coconuthead

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Under Keyboard in the Settings app you'll see an easily-missed Modifier Keys button at the bottom right.

      This lets you assign ESC to the CAPS LOCK key, which is where it was on the terminal Bill Joy had when he developed vi (that is, to the left of A on the home row).

      Of course, now you've lost CAPS LOCK, which *is* a problem for touch typists, and a pain if you're dealing with, e.g., C macros. On the other hand, it was already a pain for touch typists on many keyboards on the Mac, because macOS seems to require the key to be held down longer than for a normal keypress. (It doesn't seem to be all keyboards.)

      So, half a solution but it may suit you.

    7. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Remap CAPS-Lock to Escape... It has no other function (unless you already map it to control)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

        and then remap tab to caps-lock..

        Errr, then you'll need to remap something to tab.... say "z", as it's not used much..

        but then realise it is used... so need to map something to "z" ....

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

          Tab is useful - it allows you to navigate around a UI, and to autocomplete on the command line.

          What use does Caps-Lock have?

          There is nothing CAPS-LOCK does that the little finger on my 'other' hand can't do whilst I'm typing.

          I know someone who used to just physically remove it from his keyboards, because it was only ever hit accidentally, until I pointed out that he could just remap it instead.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Surely {ctrl}[ works for {ESC} in vi?

    9. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Function keys are useless, good riddance

      Function keys are useless?

      Lets see you work in an IT team that administers an AS400. Trust me there are still quite a lot of those things out there, they are even provided in a virtualised way nowadays.

      I'd love to see how you do without function keys.

      You'd also be lost on my machine as my preferred file manager is midnight commander.

  3. vtcodger Silver badge
    Meh

    Pro

    Those two USB-C ports (one of which will be snaffled for charging) still seem unnecessarily stingy for a laptop with ... a Pro after its name

    Your reporter(s) probably thought Pro was short for Professional. There are a lot of words that start with the letters "Pro". There's a lengthy list at https://www.wordfind.com/starts-with/pro/ Maybe the intended word is profanity or perhaps problematic.

    1. Louis Schreurs

      Re: Pro

      Perhaps the Pro means just “for” and they omitted “dummies” as a way of saving on print.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pro

        No, pro-stitution. Expensive, disappointing, you have to keep paying if you want the goods, and you suspect anyway that they are only after your money.

        So I've heard from people who have tried it. I'm not a Mac owner either.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Pro

      It doesn't need to be snaffled for charging...

      The charger should provide a pas through at a minimum, and your normal dock will of course be using the port for everything at the same time anyway

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pro

      proctologist?

  4. karlkarl Bronze badge

    The "Pro" is short for "Pro"state which will be sore once Apple consumers shove this piece of rubbish up their arse for a few months and then send it straight to the landfill. Great for the environment!

    Why is it legal for companies like Apple to litter this planned obsolescence shite all over the planet. Get it out of my sight, sodding embarrassment.

  5. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Great legacy value

    The touch bar is completely useless for me. The only thing it does is make older products that have proper F-keys much more valuable.

    I use F-keys every day and losing them would mean remapping too much stuff or having to build external keypads.

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Great legacy value

      > having to build external keypads.

      I see a potential market here. I could build and sell USB/bluetooth function key keypads.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Great legacy value

        DuncanLarge, they are easy to make. We made some at an aerospace company I worked with so there were Big Red Buttons (literally) to abort or terminate rocket flights. Done with an Arduino, a big red button and a cardboard box (they still have that cardboard version hanging around). Loupedeck, a hardware based control board for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a good example of something specialized. iControl for Garage Band on a Mac is another.

  6. TTY

    The touch bar is a gimmick no pro actually uses. Because apple has decided you shall not have actual touch or stylus support on the OS. But you can have this toy instead.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      With iPadOS 13 and MacOS Catalina, you will be able to use an iPad as a second screen and use its touch and stylus support on MacOS programs.

  7. Benson's Cycle

    How did all this happen?

    Apparently Ive walked in, saw the engineering prototype and said "What's that f'n Touchbar?" And so it came to pass.

  8. Missing Semicolon
    Happy

    Small, neat powerful laptop

    Thinkpad X230. I5. 8Gb Ram. SSD. Win10. Just £130 off ebay. Ergonomically its the dogs. Not too heavy, made like a brick outhouse. More ports than you can shake a stick at. Maybe add £20 for a new battery. Runs Linux if that's your thing. What's not to like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Small, neat powerful laptop

      Remember too that the excellent Lenovo X220 with *that* bios can actually run macOS (allegedly), cough.

      As soon as these wonderful new macs came out, I immediately bought one of the last few refurb ‘old’ 2017 MBAirs for a grand from fruit, it came with dual-core i7 8gb ram and 512gb SSD, and a keyboard that works, and loads of ports and a mag-safe. The new MBA’s & pros have better screens but would cost nearer 2 grand for the spec I got (for a kid off to college) and fruit will only mend their biscuit-crumb prone keyboard for FOUR years post-sale, after that it’s ~£700 a pop. Nope!

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