Understanding the Mac Dock

May 25, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re one of the many newcomers to the Mac OS X platform and have migrated from Windows or are used to a Windows computer (perhaps from previous experience at work or college) you might be baffled by the presence of the Dock.

This is best described as a launcher bar, from where all of the most used programs can be installed. The Dock also acts as a home to regularly accessed folders such as the trash can and the Applications folder, and best of all it can be customized to behave in the way you want.

Icons can be added to and removed from the Dock, and the panel can also be moved to any position around the Mac desktop. Additionally, it can be resized, and the icons can be instructed to behave in a particular way, such as expanding in size when you run the mouse pointer over them.

Adding an removing items to the Mac OS X Dock

Configuring the Mac Dock

You can get started with making changes to the Dock by opening the Applications menu, choosing System Preferences and selecting Dock. Here you will see a list of settings that can be configured to adjust the appearance of the launcher bar and its icons, and these can be used to great effect. For instance, I have the Size of the Dock a little smaller than usual, and so have the slider just to the left of midway; I have the Magnification check box filled so that the icons grow in size when the mouse pointer rolls over them, and select the largest possible size from the slider.

Additionally, I keep the Dock to the left Position on screen, and use the Automatically hide and show the Dock option to keep things tidy. Note that it is not possible to position the Dock at the top of the screen, only left, bottom and right.

For aesthetic reasons, I choose the Genie effect when minimizing windows, although the Scale effect is just as popular. You can also choose to Animate opening applications when they launch, and also Minimize any windows that you want off screen into the application icon to keep the desktop and the Dock tidy.

Adding and Removing Programs to the Dock

To make the Dock genuinely useful, Apple has made it possible to add and remove programs that are available to be launched from there.

For instance, if you have Microsoft Office: Mac installed, you might use Word most regularly, which means you probably don’t want the Excel and PowerPoint icons installed. This is easily resolved by right-clicking the icon you wish to drop, and selecting Options > Remove from Dock. Additionally, you might set an application to launch when you login to your Mac using the Open at Login option.

Better still, you can add items to the Dock. This is best achieved by opening the Applications folder (either via the Dock or the Finder) and dragging the application icon from the window on the desktop to the Dock itself, releasing the mouse when you are happy with the position of the item!

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