How to Get a Hardware Escape Key on MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Feb 20, 2017 - 7 Comments

Escape key on MacBook Pro touch bar

The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar model includes a Touch Bar screen in lieu of the standard hardware function keys and escape key. Removing the Escape key may not be a big deal to some Mac users, but for many pro users having no hardware escape key could be considered a major frustration or nuisance.

Before you get too bummed out by not having a hardware escape key on your fancy new MacBook Pro, know that the latest versions of MacOS allow you to modify a select group of other keys to become a hardware escape key instead.

For what it’s worth, this trick to modify a key to perform a hardware Escape function works not only on the newest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but also with other Mac models without Touch Bar as well. The only thing you need is the latest version of macOS system software, so be sure you update Mac OS first if you have not done so already.

How to Remap Escape Key on Mac

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences” and then go to the “Keyboard” preference panel and choose the “Keyboard” tab
  2. Click on the “Modifier Keys” button in the lower right corner
  3. Choose the key you want to remap and modify to perform the Escape function: Caps Lock (our recommendation), Control, Option, or Command
  4. Select “Escape” from the dropdown list corresponding to the key you want to remap as a hardware Escape key then click “OK” to set the change

Remap hardware Escape key on Mac

Now you can press the Caps Lock key (or the Control, Option, or Command keys) to use as a hardware escape key. Yes that will mean relearning your deeply ingrained Escape key location in the upper left corner of the keyboard to the new location which you chose (granted the virtual escape key will still be visible sometimes depending on the application in use on the Mac, and assuming the application is not unresponsive), but it works, and it serves the purpose of having a physical hardware escape key on the Mac which can be helpful for force quitting apps and other tasks which are best served with a hardware escape key.

The Caps Lock key is arguably the most useless key of the hardware keys, so it makes a good for replacing the Escape key on MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It is probably not recommended to replace the Control, Option, or Command keys, as those keys are used frequently on the Mac for many purposes, and thus would be largely inappropriate to remap for most Pro users.

Keep in mind this has no impact on the indented virtual Escape key that appears on the Touch Bar with some applications and when you have the Touch Bar shown in the default mode. The indented virtual Escape key will still work as usual, assuming the application is not unresponsive anyway.

If you have a Touch Bar on your Mac, did you remap the Escape key or are you satisfied with the virtual escape key? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Oliver Cromwell says:

    I hope the next version of MacBook Pro includes an option to have just the real keyboard on the upper end models.

    I use the escape key often, I don’t want to remap it, and I don’t want a virtual button as an escape key. I want a real hardware escape key. I also use the function buttons often.

    I want 32GB RAM and a real keyboard, too much to ask from Apple now?

  2. david watts says:

    I agree with Oliver. Seems that Apple has made a virtue these past few years of making changes to little things that they like but which many users have come to expect.

  3. paul says:

    Better yet, use Karabiner, which is extremely versatile at keyboard remapping. (It used to be called something like KeyRemap4MacBook; I’ve been using it ever since Apple removed the Enter key!)

  4. Scott says:

    Caps Lock is VERY important in Photoshop, so that work around won’t cut it. Hmmmm.

  5. Ray says:

    Of course, you could always study the specifications of any new product to decide if it will suit your use for it, like a grown-up.

  6. Gorbnar says:

    Real men don’t use an ESC key.

  7. avenged110 says:

    “most useless” would probably make more sense as “least useful.”

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