Apple made a big deal about the Touch Bar it added to its fourth-generation MacBook Pro laptops back in 2016. But while it was a neat idea, it hasn’t seen much use by third-party apps, meaning most of the time you find yourself wishing you had the function keys back instead. But we’ve now learnt details of the first effort by Microsoft to rival this feature, and it’s looking interesting for its far larger size and exponentially more ways to use it.
Details of what Microsoft has named the “Wonder Bar” have been found by Liliputing (via TechRadar), in the developer tools for Windows 10X, the specially designed version of Windows 10 for foldable devices.
The Wonder Bar is what Microsoft is calling the patch of touchscreen that’s left exposed when you attach a physical keyboard to or enable a virtual one on one of its upcoming dual-screen devices. The keyboard covers most of, but not all of, the bottom display when it’s in laptop mode, so the operating system lets you use the still exposed part of the display for various functions.
We originally saw this feature at Microsoft’s 2019 Surface event when it showed off the dual-screen Surface Neo, but this is the first proper glimpse we’re getting of what Microsoft intends it to be used for.
First off, you can use the Wonder Bar as a touchpad for navigating and gesturing your way around the desktop, except with additional versatility.
It can also be used as a small secondary display for video or pictures, which could be handy for all kinds of editing or productivity apps, or just for multi-tasking. Some apps also have an ‘always-on-top’ mode, such as the Calculator, letting you keep one important app always to hand while you work on something else.
Alternatively, the touch bar can be used for controlling media in the main window, again letting you have an unobstructed view of what you want to concentrate on.
This and any other uses that developers can think of will be up to them to implement, so these aren’t features you’ll get to use no matter what. But the extra space hopefully means it’ll be a far more useful feature than the Touch Bar on Apple’s MacBooks.