Mac 101: The Dock 11

Mac 101

Mac 101: The Dock


As part of the Mac 101 series, I am going to move onto the Dock. The dock is a very crucial part of the Mac OS X system. A lot of your interaction with programs will belong here. For example nearly all of your commonly used programs will reside in the dock, plus any programs you are currently using. As well as this icons such as Trash, stacks and other documents will end up in your Dock. Its an important place, so you better learn how to use it.

The Dock

The Dock is that simple bar across the bottom of your screen. It is split into two main sections. The left is your applications. Theses are the programs which are open, and which are ready in waiting. On the right is the area dedicated to stack, minized programs and the Trash icon.


Setting up the dock is simple. Go to System Preferences > Dock. Here you will have a couple of options. The size. This is how big the dock will be on your screen. I prefer a small dock to maximise screen space. The magnification. When you hover over the dock, the magnification effect will increase the size of the dock. You can change this value here, or turn it off. The position. If you are short on screen real estate you can change the location of the dock. The sides enable you to have more vertical screen space since this is the smaller side. The  final preference is the minimizing effect. This is the animation that is shown when you minimize a window.

There is not a lot of variables which you can change. Although there are a lot of hidden shortcuts which you can use to get the most out your dock.

Using The Dock

Using the dock is simple. Every time you click on an icon it will open that application. For example if you click on the TextEdit icon, it will open that program. If that program is already open, it will bring all of the windows forward for that application.

You can add any icon to the dock by drag and drop. Select the item you want drag it from Finder and place it on the dock. Its icon will then be added. You can remove any icons from the Dock by dragging them off. A small animation poof will play and the icon will be removed.

A lot of dock icons have a right click menu. This right click menu will enable you to access features of the program quickly and easily. Most apps will vary there right click menu. iTunes for example has a lot of right click options to let you change what is playing. All application will have the following menu.

The “Remove From Dock” option will remove the icon from the dock. It is the same as dragging the icon off. “Open At Login” is used to open the program when you log on. For example if you want Safari top open when you log in, you select this option. “Show In Finder” shows you the application in a Finder window. “Hide”, hides all of the windows for that application, useful if your screen is getting cluttered. Finally Quit, closes all of the applications windows and quits the program.


Stacks are a new feature of the dock in Leopard. They enable you to add folders to the dock and view their contents. To add a Stack simply drag a folder from Finder to the right hand side of the Dock. When you right click on the stack you change the Stack settings.


The Dock has a few shortcuts. They are not as numerous as other applications but they are still there.

Command + Click = Shows the app in Finder
Command + Option + Click = Hides all but the current application
Command + Option + D = Enables/Disables show hide on the dock


You can customize the dock quite easily, either by Terminal shortcuts or applications.

Enable A 2D Dock. This changes the dock from the slanted 3D look to a more 2D version. Replace yes with no to reverse the effect.

defaults write no-glass -boolean YES
killall Dock

Increase Dock magnification size. You can increase how big the magnification is on your dock past the preset limit. Change 512 to a size you want. Although don’t go past 512 as this can cause problems.

defaults write largesize -int 512

To reset change the value back either with a different number of use the preference option in System Preferences.

You can make hidden applications icons in the dock transparent by applying this command.

defaults write showhidden -bool YES
killall Dock

Replace Yes with No to reverse the effect.

You can make the dock spring loaded by using the following command in Terminal.

defaults write enable-spring-load-actions-on-all-items -boolean YES

When you drag and drop a file onto the dock icon it will open in that application.

You can also move the dock to either the left or the right of the screen by using one of the following commands.

defaults write pinning -string start

defaults write pinning -string end

To reverse simply change the options within System Preferences.

Background Image

You can change the background image of the dock. It is simply a .png image that is used to render the effect. you can easily change this to what you want. The best way to do this is to follow this post. It details all of the commands needed to change how your dock looks.


If you are new to the Mac, hopefully this post will shed a bit more light on the subject. It is really hard to write for everyone. So if you have a question please leave a comment below.

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