- 4.3. Using the Dock
Most of the time, you'll use the Dock as either a launcher (you click an icon once to open
the corresponding program, file, folder, or disk) or as a status indicator (the tiny, shiny
reflective spot, identified in Figure 4-1, indicate which programs are running).
But the Dock has more tricks than that up its sleeve. You can use it, for example, to pull
off any of the following stunts.
4.3.1. Switch Applications
The Dock isn't just a launcher; it's also a switcher. For example, it lets you:
• Jump among your open programs by clicking their icons.
• Drag a document (such as a text file) on to a Dock application (such as the
Microsoft Word icon) to open the former with the latter. (If the program balks at
opening the document, yet you're sure the program should be able to open the
document, add the and Option keys as you drag.)
• Hide all windows of the program you're in by Option-clicking another Dockicon.
• Hide all other programs' windows by Option- -clicking the Dock icon of the
program you do want (even if it's already in front).
• This is just a quick summary of the Dock's application-management functions;
you'll find the full details in Chapter 5.
4.3.2. Operate the Dock by Keyboard Control
If you turn on keyboard navigation, you can operate the Dock entirely from the keyboard;
see Section 18.104.22.168.
4.3.3. Secret Menus
If you read the box on Section 4.2.2, you know that each Dock icon has its own very
useful shortcut menu (Figure 4-5).
If you've clicked a minimized window icon, this shortcut menu says only Open (unless
it's a minimized Finder window, in which case it also says Close).
But if you've clicked any other kind of icon, you get some very useful hidden commands.
- Figure 4-5. Left Control-click or right-click a Dock icon, or click and hold on it, to
open the secret
Right: Control-click the divider bar to open a different hidden menu. This one lists
a bunch of useful Dock commands, including the ones listed in the Dock
• [Window names]. The secret Dock menu of a running program usually lists at
least one tiny, neatly labeled window icon, like those shown in Figure 4-5. This
useful Mac OS X feature means that you can jump directly not only to a certain
program, but to a certain open window in that program.
For example, suppose you've been using Word to edit three different chapters. You
can use Word's Dock icon as a Window menu to pull forward one particular
chapter, or (if it's been minimized) to pull it up—even from within a different
program. (The check mark indicates the frontmost window, even if the entire
program is in the background at the moment.)
Tip: The Finder tile that's always at the beginning of the Dock is, in effect, its own
Window menu. Its shortcut menu lists all open desktop windows. The Window
menu at the top of the Finder screen does the same thing, but the Dock is available
no matter what program you're using.
• Keep In Dock/Remove From Dock. Here's another item that's relevant only to
program icons in the Dock.
Whenever you open a program, Mac OS X puts its icon in the Dock—marked with
a shiny, white reflective spot—even if you don't normally keep its icon there. As
soon as you quit the program, its icon disappears again from the Dock.
If you understand that much, then the Keep In Dock command makes a lot of
sense. It means, "Hello, I'm this program's icon. I know you don't normally keep
me in your Dock, but I could stay here even after you quit my program. Just say
the word." If you find that you've been using, for example, Terminal a lot more
often than you thought you would, this command may be the ticket.
- Tip: Actually, there's a faster way to tell a running application to remain in the
Dock from now on. Just drag its icon off the Dock and then right back onto it—
yes, while the program is running. You have to try it to believe it.
On the other hand, what if a program's icon is always in the Dock (even when it's
not running) and you don't want it there? In that case, this command says Remove
From Dock instead. It gets the program's icon off the Dock, thereby returning the
space it was using to other icons. (You can achieve the same result by dragging the
icon away from the Dock, but evidently too many Mac fans weren't aware of this
Use this command on programs you rarely use. When you do want to run those
programs, you can always use Spotlight to fire them up.
Note: If the program is already running, using Remove From Dock does not
immediately remove its icon from the Dock, which could be confusing. That's
because a program always appears in the Dock when it's open. What you're doing
here is saying, "Disappear from the Dock when you're not running"—and you'll
see the proof as soon as you quit that program.
• Open at Login. This command lets you specify that you want this icon to open
itself automatically each time you log into your account (Section 9.16). It's a great
way to make sure that your email Inbox, your calendar, or the Microsoft Word
thesis you've been working on is fired up and waiting on the screen when you sit
down to work.
To make this item stop auto-opening, choose this command from its Dock icon
again, so that the check mark no longer appears.
• Show In Finder. This command highlights the actual icon (in whatever folder
window it happens to sit) of the application, alias, folder, or document you've
clicked. You might want to do this when, for example, you're using a program that
you can't quite figure out, and you want to jump to its desktop folder in hopes of
finding a Read Me file there.
- Tip: Once again, there's a much faster way to reveal a Dock icon in its enclosing
window: -click its Dock icon.
• Hide/Show. This operating system is crawling with ways to hide or reveal a
selected batch of windows. Here's a case in point: You can hide all traces of the
program you're using by choosing Hide from its Dockicon.(You could accomplish
the same thing in many other ways, of course; see Section 22.214.171.124.)
What's cool here is that (a) you can even hide the Finder and all its windows,
and(b) if you press Option, the command changes to say Hide Others. This, in its
way,is a much more powerful command. It tells all the programs you're not
using—the ones in the background—to get out of your face. They hide themselves
Note: Once you've hidden a program's windows, this command changes to say
Show, which is how you make them reappear.
• Quit. You can quit any program directly from its Dock shortcut menu. (Finder and
Dashboard are exceptions.) You don't have to switch into a program in order to
access its Quit command. (Troubleshooting moment: If you get nothing but a beep
when you use this Quit command, it's because you've hidden the windows of that
program, and one of them has unsaved changes. Click the program's icon, save
your document, and then try to quit again.)
Of course, thanks to Mac OS X's state-of-the-art memory management features,
there's less need these days to quit programs at all. Still, you might be thankful for
this quick-quitting feature when your boss is coming down the hallway and the
Dilbert Web site is on your screen where a spreadsheet is supposed to be.
Tip: If you hold down the Option key—even after you've opened the pop-up
menu—the Quit command changes to say Force Quit. That's your emergency
hatch for jettisoning a locked-up program.
- 4.3.4. Conduct Speed Tests
When you click an application icon in the Dock, its icon jumps up and down a few times
as the program launches, as though with excitement at having been selected. The longer a
program takes to startup, them or ebounces you see. This has given birth to a hilarious
phenomenon: counting these bounces as a casual speed benchmark for application-
launching times. "In Design took 12 bouncemarks to open in Mac OS X 10.4," you might
read online, "but only three bouncemarks in 10.5."
Tip: If you find the icon bouncing a bit over the top, try this: Choose Dock
Dock Preferences. In the Dock preference pane (shown in Figure 4-3), turn off "Animate
opening applications." From now on, your icons won't actually bounce—instead, the little
shiny spot underneath it will simply pulse as the application opens.
4.3.5. Drag and Drop
In Leopard, for the first time, Dock icons are spring-loaded. That is, if you drag any icon
onto a Dock icon and pause—or, if you're in a hurry, tap the Space bar—the Dock icon
opens to receive the dragged file.
Note: It opens, that is, if the spring-loaded folder feature is turned on in Finder
This technique is most useful in these situations:
• Drag a document icon onto a Dock folder icon. The folder's Finder window pops
open, so that you can continue the drag into a subfolder.
• You drag a document into an application. The classic example is dragging a photo
onto the iPhoto icon. When you tap the Space bar, iPhoto opens automatically.
Since your mouse button is still down, and you're technically still in mid-drag, you
can now drop the photo directly into the appropriate iPhoto album or Event.
You can drag an MP3 file into iTunes or an attachment into Mail or Entourage the
4.3.6. Do Your Filing
- Once you've tried stashing a few important folders on the right side of your Dock, there's
no going back. You can mostly forget all the other navigation tricks you've learned in
Mac OS X. The folders you care about are always there, ready for opening with a single
Better yet, they're easily accessible for putting away files; you can drag files directly into
the Dock's folder icons as though they were regular folders.
In fact, you can even drag a file into a subfolder in a Dock folder. That's because in
Leopard, the Dock's folders are spring-loaded. When you drag an icon onto a Dock folder
and pause, the folder's window appears around your cursor, so you can continue the drag
into an inner folder (and even an innerinner folder, and so on). Section 2.4.4 has the
details on spring-loaded folders.
Tip: When you try to drag something into a Dock folder icon, the Dock icons scoot out of
the way; the Dock assumes that you're trying to put that something ontothe Dock. But if
you press the key as you drag an icon to the Dock, the existing Dock icons freeze in
place. Without the key, you wind up playing a frustrating game of chase-the-folder.
4.3.7. Great Things to Put in Your Dock
Now that you know what the Dock's about, it's time to set up shop. Install the programs,
folders, and disks you'll be using most often.
They can be whatever you want, of course, but don't miss these opportunities:
• Your Home folder. Many people immediately drag their hard drive icons—or,
perhaps more practically, their Home folders (see Section 2.1)—onto the right side
of the Dock. Now they have quick access to every file in every folder they ever
• The Applications folder. Here's a no-brainer: Stash the Applications folder here, so
you'll have quick pop-up menu access to any program on your machine.
• Your Applications folder. As an even more efficient corollary, create a new folder
of your own. Fill it with the aliases of just the programs you use most often and
park it in the Dock. Now you've got an even more useful Applications folder that
opens as a stack.
- Tip: Mac OS X comes with too many programs to fit in a single folder stack. So
consider making several folders of your programs, grouped by category: Graphics,
Internet, Fun, and so on. Put aliases of the appropriate programs in each one.
Presto: a handy stack-based categorized launcher.
• The Shared folder. If you're using the Mac's accounts feature (Chapter 12), this is
your wormhole between all accounts—the one place you can put files where
everybody can access them (Section 12.6.2).
Tip: Ordinarily, dragging an icon off the Dock takes it off the Dock.But if you
press as you drag, you drag the actual item representedby the Dock icon from
wherever it happens to be on the hard drive! This trick is great when, for example,
you want to email a document whose icon is in the Dock; just -drag it into
your outgoing message. (Option- -drag, meanwhile, creates an aliasof the
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