Remap Your Mac with BetterTouchTool (Sponsor)

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This week MacSparky is sponsored by BetterTouchTool, the Mac App that gives your input devices superpowers. While Apple makes some excellent trackpads and mice, the built-in gestures are just a taste of what you could do with those devices. With BetterTouchTool, you can completely re-design your Touch Bar, configure various Magic Mouse and Trackpad gestures, define keyboard shortcuts, bind standard mouse buttons, use the Siri Remote with your Mac and do tons more.

You may know BetterTouchTool for its ability to hotwire your trackpad, but there are so many other uses. For example, you can reconfigure the Mac’s green window button. Apple sets that button to take the current window to full-screen mode, but I don’t want that. I used BetterTouchTool to make it maximize the current window without full-screen mode. (I also set a right-click on the green button to make it full screen with BetterTouchTool in the odd case I actually want that behavior.)

BetterTouchTool offers many actions to automate various tasks on your Mac. These can be assigned to any input-device trigger you choose. Additionally, it contains some handy features like window snapping, a clipboard manager, a screenshot editor, and much more. This app is an absolute game-changer. Also, you can now join the BetterTouchTool Community at to learn how to get even more from BetterTouchTool. Users have shared some amazing presets there, including some very advanced custom Touch Bar setups that you should check out.

BetterTouchTool comes with a 45-day trial after which you can choose between a license that includes all updates for two years and a lifetime license.

BetterTouchTool has been around for ten years, and I’ve been using it the entire time. With BetterTouchTool, I can make my Mac dance. You should too. MacSparky readers can purchase BetterTouchTool for 15% off at checkout by using the coupon code MACSPARKYBTT for a limited time. So don’t delay. Go to to learn more and take advantage of the special limited-time, 15% discount on BetterTouchTool.

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Hyper Key Via BetterTouchTool

I’m a big advocate for the hyper key. This idea was first introduced to me by Brett Terpstra and involves mapping Shift-Control-Option-Command to the caps lock key. Using the hyper key opens your keyboard up to a ton of new easily triggered shortcuts. Historically, I’ve done this remapping with Karabiner Elements. However, this remapping just got a lot easier. BetterTouchTool has added the a new feature that lets you map the hyper key combination to any key (including caps lock). See the screenshots below for how to set it up. Also, the developer has a walkthrough right here.

The Informational Touch Bar with BetterTouchTool (Sponsor)

Do you have a MacBook with a Touch Bar that you are ignoring? You could fix that today with this week’s sponsor, BetterTouchTool. My Touch Bar gives me the current date and time, the current temperature (and daily high and low), and a list of my upcoming appointments. I like to think of it as my “Informational Touch Bar” and it was easy to set up with BetterTouchTool. Here’s a picture of my Touch Bar.

The Informational Touch Bar – Click to enlarge.

The Time

I know you can also display the time and date in the menu bar, but I often work in full screen when I’m on a laptop so putting it in the Touch Bar is useful.

The Time Widget is customizable. You can set your own formatting using the Unicode standard. Here is the code I’m using for the pictured setup.

E MMM d H:mm

The time widget setup – Click to enlarge.

The Temperature

This widget is seasonal for me. Once it gets warm, I don’t need to know the exact temperature, but it helps me out during colder periods. My setup is a little odd because I put the current temperature but also the high-low in parenthesis. I don’t bother with the Fahrenheit designation on the high-low to save space. Here is the BTT code for my temperature widget.

{temp} {unit} {icon} ({apparentTemperatureLow} - {apparentTemperatureHigh})

The weather widget setup – Click to enlarge.

Upcoming Events

This is my favorite BTT widget. I block nearly all of my time through the day and having a display on my Touch Bar (it scrolls!) comes in super handy when I am not sure where I’m going/doing next. Here is my syntax for this display:

{attendanceStatus}{all-day}{startTime} {-} {endTime} {@} {location}

The event widget setup – Click to enlarge.

It takes almost no time to set simple widgets like this up with BetterTouchTool and dramatically increase your Touch Bar’s value. BetterTouchTool can also do a lot more with your mouse, touchpad, and just about any other Mac input device you can throw at it. To learn more, head over to the BetterTouchTool website. My thanks to BetterTouchTool for sponsoring MacSparky and helping me get more out of the Touch Bar.

Paying for BetterTouchTool

I’ve written about BetterTouchTool in the past (most recently here) and also talked about it on the Mac Power Users. This Mac utility dramatically improves the functionality of your trackpad, mouse, and other input devices. I’ve worried about BetterTouchTool though. My concern has never been the software itself. The developer continues to add new features all the time.

Instead I’ve worried about the fact that it is free. As the software became more complex, I knew maintenance and support had to be time consuming. Nobody can support software this good for free forever and still put bread on the table.

I’m pleased to see that is changing. BetterTouchTool is now on a paid model. The developer has made this as gentle as possible with a “pay what you think it’s worth” system. If you use the application as much as I do, I recommend you pay generously. As explained on BetterTouchTool’s website:

“I understand the concern [about requiring payment]. However I think this is still much better than abandoning BetterTouchTool development.”

Support the software you love if you want to keep it.

The Magic Trackpad 2 and Better Touch Tool

Getting the new Magic Trackpad 2 led me to consider Force Touch on the Mac. I’ve had it on my MacBook for months and now I’ve got it on my iMac yet I rarely use it. I think this has a lot to do with options. On the Mac, you’ve already got a primary click, a secondary click, and a double click. Add to that the three finger tap and the existing gesture library in OS X and you begin to wonder what you’re supposed to do with a Force Touch. (Jason Snell and Myke Hurley have been talking about this on recent episodes of Upgrade.) I think Apple has the same questions because most of the force touch features are actions already accomplished with some other type of tap. 

Then I got thinking about what I could do with Force Touch if I could set the Force Touch actions. This is possible on the Mac using BetterTouchTool. BetterTouchTool is an amazing Mac utility from Andreas Hagenberg. It is donationware–and if you use it you should donate–and it is awesome. BetterTouchTool lets you set custom gestures with your trackpad to perform actions on your Mac. (BetterTouchTool also works with the Magic Mouse, normal mice, keyboard, Apple Remote, Leap Motion, and the BetterTouchTool iPhone app.) BetterTouchTool is flexible. The application recognizes just about anything you could do with up to five digits and a trackpad. If you want a gesture where tap across the trackpad like drumming your fingers, BetterTouchTool can accommodate you. You can even add custom gestures that trigger when you draw a shape on the trackpad. 

Either way, once triggered, BetterTouchTool can execute a keyboard combination or perform a system action. For example, when I four finger tap, BetterTouchTool toggles the DragonDictate microphone on and off again.

So I’ve been experimenting with Force Touch and BetterTouchTool and come up with some pretty nice custom actions:

  • When I Force Touch on the lower-left or lower-right portion of the Magic Trackpad 2, My Mac optimizes the current active app for the left or right side of the screen.
  • Force Touching the upper left corner of the trackpad toggles fullscreen mode for the currently active application on and off.
  • A four finger Force Touch sleeps my screen and a five finger Force Touch sleeps my iMac.
  • A three finger Force Touch toggles the play/pause button, which comes in handy when the phone rings.

I guess my point is that while Force Touch on the Mac is clever, it really comes into its own when you combine it with BetterTouchTool. Try it for yourself and let me know what works for you. I’m going to do a follow up post with some user submitted BetterTouchTool recipes soon.