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  1. 4.1. The Dock For years, most operating systems maintained two different lists of programs. One listed unopened programs until you need them, like the Start menu (Windows) or the Launcher (Mac OS 9). The other kept track of which programs were open at the moment for easy switching, like the taskbar (Windows) or the Application menu (Mac OS 9). In Mac OS X, Apple combined both functions into a single strip of icons called theDock. Apple's thinking goes like this: Why must you know whether or not a program is already running? That's the computer's problem, not yours. In an ideal world, this distinction should be irrelevant. A program should appear when you click its icon, whether it's open or not—like on a PalmPilot, for example. "Which programs are open" already approaches unimportance in Mac OS X, where sophisticated memory-management features make it hard to run out of memory. You can open dozens of programs at once in Mac OS X. And that's why the Dock combines the launcher and status functions of a modern operating system. Only a tiny white reflective dot beneath a program's icon tells you that it's open. Whether or not you agree with Apple's philosophy (and not everyone does), Apple has made it as easy as possible to learn to like the Dock. You can customize the thing to within an inch of its life, or even get rid of it completely. This section explains everything you need to know.