The Dock was a new Mac feature when OS X was first introduced. It had been part of the NeXTstep and OpenStep environments, where it was just an application launcher. In OS X, it would also show running programs and could hold documents. As you use OS X, you quickly determine which apps deserve an icon in the Dock and which do not. You also work out a way of ordering those icons that suits your work style. In this article, our writers share what’s in their Docks – and why.
Dan Knight: I remember experimenting with OS X Beta and then 10.1, but I didn’t really start using it until OS X 10.2 Jaguar. That was on my 400 MHz Titanium PowerBook G4, and I experimented with Dock placement, eventually deciding to put it on the right side of the screen. That was before I had so many apps in my Dock – I just tried doing that on my MacBook, and the icons were hard to make out. My tendency on a freestanding Mac is to place the dock on the bottom with a normal aspect ratio display, on the side when using a more cinematic display.
Apple seeds the Dock with its own software; it’s up to you do add, delete, and rearrange things to best suit your needs. For instance, looking at the default OS X 10.9 Mavericks Dock, I don’t use Keynote or Maps, so both come out immediately. I don’t use iBooks, so off to the Trash with that one. And I have no use for the Launchpad, so that one goes as well. Then I add in the things I use: Google’s Chrome browser, along with Firefox, Opera, and that old standby Camino. Next is Online Bible, versions of which I’ve been using for 20 years. Then come the Bean word processor and LibreOffice, a free open source alternative to Microsoft Office.
Although I don’t use Pages, I quite like Numbers. Numbers 2.0 can import my old AppleWorks spreadsheets, and version 3.0 is fully Mavericks compatible. I’m going to be comparing the charts it creates with the ones I can make in LibreOffice to determine which will be the best tool moving forward for creating graphs.
Then comes TextSoap, which is an old version that’s not compatible with Mavericks. It sits there as a reminder that I need to come up with $20 to update this very useful app. FileZilla lets me replace and delete files on the lowendmac.com server, and BlueGriffon is a WYSIWYG web page editor that I’m not sure whether I’ll keep using or not. It was far more useful before we moved Low End Mac to WordPress.
Then come TextEdit, Disk Utility, SuperDuper (maybe not Mavericks compatible – I haven’t checked yet), and TextWrangler, the best free text editor I’ve ever worked with. NameMunger is next to that, and it’s very useful for renaming files as all lower-case, replacing spaces with hyphens or underscores, and the like.
Then come some apps for working with images. ImageOptim compresses JPEG, GIF, and PNG files, sometimes significantly, which means your pages load more quickly when visiting Low End Mac. Photoshop Elements 6 (PE is now at version 12) is my go-to image editor, and iPhoto holds my entire digital photography library. I also have Pixelmator, but I’ve never really taken to it.
Then comes the Address Book (oops, Contacts), Dropbox, SpamSieve to filter incoming spam, and Screenshot Helper, which I often use to put a plain white background in before doing a screen capture.
Here’s what the Dock looks like in Mavericks on my MacBook:
And here’s the Dock when I’m running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on the same MacBook:
There are a few differences, mostly in the order of the icons. To the right of LibreOffice is good old AppleWorks, which I’ve been using since ClarisWorks 1.0 came out for Mac System 7.0 way back in 1991. AppleWorks 6 was ported to Mac OS X and works up through version 10.6.8 – but nothing since then, which is why I am investigating LibreOffice.
You can see the TextSoap icon to the left of the FileZilla one, whereas it shows up with a slash because this versions won’t run in Mavericks. And next to BlueGriffon is KompoZer 0.7.10 (I don’t like the way 0.8b3 works), an older WYSIWYG web page editor that isn’t compatible with Mavericks. The two docks have nearly identical contents in almost the same order, making it easier to switch between operating systems.
And then there’s the dock on my Mac mini, which runs Snow Leopard on a 1600 x 1200 display – nearly twice the working area of the MacBook!
Once again, we have most of the same icons in mostly the same order. I have the DSWipe utility, Pixelmator, and Photoshop Elements 3.0 in this Dock, but I should remove all three apps, as I no longer use them. Other than lacking FaceTime (my Mac mini has no webcam), it’s pretty similar to Snow Leopard on the MacBook.
Finally, let’s look at the Dock on my Power Mac G5 running OS X 10.5 Leopard:
Once again, not a lot of differences. I don’t use this Power Mac for much other than letting me control my MDD Power Mac G4 and Mac mini from the same mouse and keyboard using a great little donationware utility called Teleport. I have some last generation PowerPC browsers on here: Leopard WebKit for Safari, TenFourFox, and Aurorafox, a Leopard-only port of TenFourFox. I have Excel and Word from Office 2004 in the Dock, although they are rarely used.
The trash can icon is an old version of DS_Store Cleaner, an app similar to DSWipe mentioned above. Newer versions of this program require OS X 10.7 Lion or later. Also in the Dock are Time Machine and Activity Monitor.
Since my Power Mac G4 is out of service at the moment, I can’t take you through its Dock, but you’d find it similar in many ways to the ones above, except that it also has Claris Home Page, Apple’s long-discontinued WYSIWYG web page editor that I used for over 15 years.
Alan Zisman: Whenever I help someone new to Mac, I suggest that they take a look at their Dock and get rid of anything that they don’t imagine using frequently. I show them how with a Poof! an item can be removed from the Dock, while pointing out that the actual program still remains in the Applications folder. I also show them how to add an application to the Dock. PhotoBooth, for instance, is fun – for about 10 minutes. After that, most folks don’t seem to need to have it taking up limited Dock-space.
I’ve gotten rid of the standard System Preferences icon (which I notice Dan has in most of his Docks). I figure that it’s easily accessible from the Apple menu in the top menu bar – why do I need to have two ways to access it on my Desktop? I’ve also gotten rid of Apple’s Mail, Calendar, and Address Book icons – I use Google services instead: Gmail, Google Calendar, etc., since these can be accessed on multiple devices – including non-Apple computers and mobile devices.
I get rid of icons for applications that get used often, but only by double-clicking a document file: QuickTime or Preview for instance. I almost never need to open QuickTime and then use its File/Open menu – do you?
And I got rid of the standard folders Apple puts on the right-end of the Dock: Applications, Documents, Downloads. These are easily accessed from the Finder, and I don’t find the ways they appear when clicked on either particularly useful or attractive.
So what’s on my Dock? Only icons for applications I use often. Besides the Finder, I’ve got three browsers – yes, I use all three on a regular basis. Beside those, Mozilla Thunderbird and free web-creation program Kompozer. FTP program Transmit for sending those created or edited webpages to my web server. Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages – two programs with similar capabilities; I’m trying to decide whether to use Pages in place of Word; until I decide, I want to keep both icons handy and in my face. I use other Microsoft Office and iWorks applications – but much less often. I don’t need to keep their icons here.
Quicken Essentials for financial stuff. iTunes. TextEdit for a quickly-jotted note, pasting an web address, and more. Toast for burning discs – though I’m doing that less often and could probably dump the Dock icon. There! It’s gone!
A trio of image-related programs: the shareware GraphicConverter as sort of a poor-person’s Photoshop. SnapNDrag Pro for quick screen captures (like creating the image of my Dock). iPhoto. And Finale PrintMusic for creating/editing sheet music. On the upstairs iMac, I keep an icon for Preview (despite what I said up above); I often use it to access the scanner attached to that Mac.
I have lots more applications on my Mac – for quick and easy access, I make use of the free XMenu (which I wrote about on Low End Mac in 2009). It still works fine multiple OS X versions later offering me a scrollable menu of the contents of my Applications folder from an icon on the right-hand corner of the Menu Bar.
I like to keep a clean Desktop as well – an icon for my Mac’s hard drive (probably more out of nostalgia than actual usefulness). And icons for files I’m using in current projects – like the screen capture image of my Dock. When the project is done, the icons go to the Trash or get files in the appropriate folder. I’ve never understood why so many people cover an attractive wallpaper image with so many icons that they can’t appreciate the image – and can’t easily locate a file in all that clutter.
But that’s a story for another article!
Simon Royal: For me the Dock is an essential part of my Mac experience. Some people don’t like it or use it, but for me every app on my Mac has a place on the Dock. I like to organise it in to sections and choose very carefully what icons sit next to each other. Here is my Mavericks Dock.
- Start: Finder and LaunchPad.
- Browsers: Firefox and Safari.
- Email/Online: Mail, Twitter, Maps, Tomato, then Contacts, Calendar, and FaceTime.
- Text/Picture Editing: OpenOffice, Bean, TextEdit, TextWrangler, Notes, GIMP, and SeaShore.
- Media Editing/Creation: iTunes, Burn, YouTube to MP3, Audacity, GarageBand, iMovie, iMovie HD, VLC, and Handbrake.
- iPhone tools: iTools and TinyUmbrella.
- Network/OS Tools: ChickenOfTheVNC, TeamViewer, and VirtualBox.
- Finally: MacTracker, PhotoBooth, Messages, App Store, and System Preferences.
The best thing about the Dock is that, apart from the Apple preloaded items, everything else is user controlled, unlike the Windows Start menu, where apps and folders get placed on the Menu automatically. Interestingly, older versions of Office for Mac (version X and 2004) used to place icons on the dock automatically – obviously a Microsoft habit.
I keep it as small as possible with full magnification on. I love seeing that Mexican wave ripple effect as a slide across the dock.
I dual boot my MacBook with Mavericks and Snow Leopard, for older PowerPC apps. My Snow Leopard partition is only small and rarely used. The Dock only has a few standard things taken out and Firefox added.
I keep the Applications, Documents, and Downloads folders at the end of my Snow Leopard Dock, but I only use the Downloads – great for quick access. Interestingly, writing this article I just noticed Applications and Documents are not on my Mavericks Dock and look as if they are removed by default.
So, what’s in your Dock?
Short link: http://goo.gl/cwqGXr
Always interesting to see other’s working environments. I haven’t given Dock layout much thought in a long time. At some point, not sure when, I’ve made Spotlight my go-to launcher. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve come to rely on it until I sat down at a pre-Tiger Mac and hit Command+Space out of habit and muscle memory.
I’ve never found the dock as useful for storing applications. People I know look at me like I’m crazy for this, but it just looks too cluttered to me. Also, the dock becomes large and unruly versus icon placement on the desktop. Obviously, this is counter to what Alan says above.
Of course, I’m one of those guys who has two or three working “piles” on his desk at work. I had an assistant try to organize me once… Yeah, she had a bad day after that!
Of course, people who use Windows regularly would balk at my windows desktop. I try to make it as close to the classic mac os as possible (down to position of shortcuts for the “recycle bin” and hard drives).