A few weeks ago I did what I thought was unthinkable and bought my very first Mac. Now, I’m not here to bash Windows, which I’ve used since Windows 3.1 made its debut, but I had some bad experiences in purchasing a new computer that came pre-loaded with Vista. Frustrated, I made my first foray into working with OS X after deciding it’d be worth a shot. So far it’s been a joy, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to get acclimated to some new conventions on a Mac whilst migrating from PC land. Bearing that in mind, I figured there’s probably more than a few switchers out there who are scratching their heads while getting used to OS X. So, I decided to start a series explaining to noobs like myself how to accomplish some very simple tasks on a Mac that hopefully some of you will find useful. So read on this week as we tackle navigating the dock in OS X.
Understanding the Icons:
Below you’ll find a thumbnail of my desktop so you can get a quick peek at what the dock actually looks like.
From left to right, the dock typically has the following icons:
- Finder (Think Windows Explorer)
- Multiple application shortcuts (In my case, uTorrent, Firefox, Evernote, etc.)
- A separator strip
- ‘Stacks’ for your Documents, Applications, and Downloads (we’ll get to these in a second)
- Minimized (but still active) windows
Now, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that some of my shortcuts have a small, glowing light underneath them. These lights are used to indicate that the application it rests underneath is currently running. If you roll your cursor over the icons, you’ll find that usually a nice zoom effect occurs, giving you a pleasant visual indicator as to which application, document, or shortcut you’re about to click on.
Interacting With Shortcuts:
Using shortcuts on the dock is pretty simple. You need only click on an icon and it will (by default) begin to bounce cheerfully as the application launches. In addition to launching the shortcut you’ve selected, you can also right-click on an icon or single-click and hold for a moment to see a context menu appear with options such as:
- Remove from Dock (Does not delete the application)
- Open at Login (Similar to placing a shortcut in the Windows Startup folder)
- Show in Finder (Locate the file on disk)
- Hide (Minimize the active window)
- Quit (Close the application)
Besides using the ‘Remove from Dock’ context menu item to remove a shortcut, you can also click and drag it off of the dock and release to see it disappear in a puff of smoke. Don’t worry- this doesn’t delete the application as it can always be restored from your Applications folder by dragging the icon back onto the dock. You can also freely re-arrange the order of dock icons by clicking and dragging them into the order you see fit.
Working with Stacks:
A stack is basically the same as a regular shortcut, but instead of a file or application, it expands the listing of a folder upward like the image below-
This allows you quick access to commonly used files and folders and also, at the very top, a quick way to open those files or folders in Finder.
Tweaking Dock Settings:
While the dock is fairly useful in its default configuration, you may want to tweak it a bit. To accomplish this, simply right-click (or ctrl+click for you single button users) on the separator strip located between your icons and stacks and choose ‘Dock Preferences’ to change settings such as size, magnification, screen position, and animations.
While the dock is certainly useful, it can be more flexible after you’ve modified it to suit your needs. For more information on the dock, head over to Apple’s article Mac 101: The Dock.