Flunking the bar: MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar gets boot from N.C.’s lawyer exam

Apple MacBook 13-inch Touch Pad
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Apple’s latest MacBook Pro innovation is the Touch Bar, an OLED strip above the keyboard that replaces the static row of function keys with an adaptive display that provides task-specific input options. The Touch Bar is, essentially, a programmable display that creative developers can adapt in a number of ways.

Apparently, the Touch Bar’s very flexibility can be a problem for situations where a MacBook Pro needs to be carefully monitored and controlled. One example is using a MacBook Pro for taking exams, as 9to5Mac reports.

Following their years of education, lawyer candidates need to take an exam to practice law. The bar exam is an important step to becoming a lawyer and the Board of Law Examiners of the State of North Carolina is working to ensure that the integrity of the exam is being maintained.

Specifically, MacBook Pro users need to take an extra step, according to a notice issued by the Board: “all applicants who will be using their laptop at the February 2017 North Carolina Bar Examination. If you are planning to use the newest version of the Mac Book Pro with Touch Bar, you will be required to disable the Touch Bar feature prior to entry into the Bar Examination Site.”

The instructions provided don’t actually turn off the bar entirely, but rather switch it to its Extended Control Strip setting. In this mode, the bar no longer responds contextually to how the machine is being used but rather reverts to a virtual facsimile of the old-school function keys. To enter this mode, go to System Preferences, double-click on the keyboard option, open the “Touch Bar Shows” drop-down menu, and choose “Expanded Control Strip.”

According to board staff member Brian Szontagh, “applications are required to disable the Touch Bar because it can compromise Examination integrity and security.” Software provided by developer ExamSoft already is used by the Board to make sure that users can’t access the internet, files, and apps in order to cheat on the bar exam, but that software can’t yet be used to remove the Touch Bar as a potential vulnerability.

It’s likely that other organizations will follow suit in requiring MacBook Pro users to turn off the Touch Bar before beginning an exam. You might want to keep those instructions handy to make sure you can quickly and easily turn off the bar’s context-sensitive capabilities.

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