Getting NSTouchBar to play nice with GLFW

I wanted to add some simple buttons in the new fancy NSTouchBar for one of my projects:

TouchBar showing emojis for text input

However, I couldn’t find a quick and short introduction on how to use it without going full Objective-C, Swift or Xcode-path.

After some hacking I managed to put together a short version that people should be able to build upon. It will also play nice in C/C++ projects, since that is what most of my codebase is built on.

#include <GLFW/glfw3.h>
#include <GLFW/glfw3native.h>

static NSString *touchBarCustomizationId = @"com.something.customization_id";
static NSString *touchBarItemId = @"com.something.item_id";

@interface GLFWTouchBarDelegate : NSObject <NSTouchBarDelegate>
    - (NSTouchBar *)makeTouchBar;
    - (NSTouchBarItem *)touchBar:(NSTouchBar *)touchBar makeItemForIdentifier:(NSTouchBarItemIdentifier)identifier;
    - (void)glfwButtonAction:(id)sender;

@implementation GLFWTouchBarDelegate
    - (NSTouchBar *)makeTouchBar
        // Create TouchBar object
        NSTouchBar *touchBar = [[NSTouchBar alloc] init];
        touchBar.delegate = self;
        touchBar.customizationIdentifier = touchBarCustomizationId;

        // Set the default ordering of items.
        touchBar.defaultItemIdentifiers = @[touchBarItemId, NSTouchBarItemIdentifierOtherItemsProxy];
        touchBar.customizationAllowedItemIdentifiers = @[touchBarItemId];
        touchBar.principalItemIdentifier = touchBarItemId;

        return touchBar;

    - (NSTouchBarItem *)touchBar:(NSTouchBar *)touchBar makeItemForIdentifier:(NSTouchBarItemIdentifier)identifier
        if ([identifier isEqualToString:touchBarItemId])
            NSButton *button = [NSButton buttonWithTitle:NSLocalizedString(@"GLFW Rules", @"") target:self action:@selector(glfwButtonAction:)];

            NSCustomTouchBarItem* g_TouchBarItem = [[NSCustomTouchBarItem alloc] initWithIdentifier:touchBarItemId];
            g_TouchBarItem.view = button;
            g_TouchBarItem.customizationLabel = NSLocalizedString(@"Truth Button", @"");

            return g_TouchBarItem;

        return nil;

    - (void)glfwButtonAction:(id)sender
        NSLog(@"The 'GLFW Rules' button was pressed!");

// Call this from your C++ side:
GLFWTouchBarDelegate* g_TouchBarDelegate = NULL;
void ShowTouchBar()
    if (!g_TouchBarDelegate) {
        g_TouchBarDelegate = [[GLFWTouchBarDelegate alloc] init];
        [NSApplication sharedApplication].automaticCustomizeTouchBarMenuItemEnabled = YES;

    NSTouchBar* touchBar = [g_TouchBarDelegate makeTouchBar];

    NSWindow* nswin = glfwGetCocoaWindow(window);
    nswin.touchBar = touchBar;
    // If not using GLFW or unknown NSWindow*:
    // Somehow I needed to loop over `windows` here,
    // not sure why, but `mainWindow` did not work, oh well.
    NSArray<NSWindow*>* windows = [NSApplication sharedApplication].windows;
    for (int i = 0; i < windows.count; ++i) {
        NSWindow* wnd = windows[i];
        wnd.touchBar = touchBar;

This will create a touchbar with one button, displaying “GLFW Rules”, when ShowTouchBar() is called.

In the example I’m using GLFW, but it is also possible to uncomment the last part to get it working with other frameworks that does not supply the active NSWindow*.

Here is a quick screenshot of the result of the example code above:

TouchBar showing the GLFW Rules button.