OS X’s dock is one of the most recognizable features of the operating system as a whole. It’s safe to say that it was fairly groundbreaking when it first appeared, and many still find it useful down to this day.
I’m one of those people. I know that some like to completely disable the dock, skin the dock, or often use the ⌘ + Option + D command to hide it from view when not in use. I’m a bit different; I like to keep it looking stock, and generally like to keep it exposed.
With that said, I do have some tips that I follow with every fresh install of OS X. Inside, I’ll show you how I setup and utilize my dock, and why I believe it continues to be such a useful tool after all of these years.
The first thing that you must get familiar with, is the dock’s preferences. You can find the dock preferences by clicking the Apple menu > Dock > Dock Preferences.
1: Minimizing windows
Right off the bat, you’ll notice a few options that I use in the Dock preferences to make the user experience better.
The first, and most significant option, is the Minimize windows into application icon option. This is always one of the first options that I enable when I perform a clean OS X install.
By default, all windows minimize into the dock with their own icon. This results in a severely cluttered dock in a relatively short period of time.
Enabling this option will minimize all apps into their respective app icons in the dock. If the app isn’t permanently displayed on the dock, its app icon will appear there while the document is open.
2: Disable indicator lights
Disabling indicator light is more of a subtle change when compared with the previous option discussed. Dock indicator lights allow you to visually see what apps are actually open and running in your dock. I believe that if an app is in the dock, then it should be so frequently used that you should just expect it to be open.
For me, indicator lights add one more visual distraction that’s just not necessary. If you keep your dock limited to the few items that you actually use regularly enough to warrant their placement there, then indicator lights shouldn’t really make a big difference either way.
3: Only dock apps that you use daily
Let me reiterate it for you: keep your dock clean and clutter free. Don’t stash every app that you might use once and a blue moon down there. Only keep that apps that you use every waking day. For any other app, just use LaunchPad, or your launcher of choice.
4: Keep your dock sized appropriately
People tend to fall into one of two extremes — they create a huge dock that takes up too much space, or they reduce the size of the dock to a grain of sand that’s hardly useful from a practical standpoint. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but some basic fundamentals should be accepted.
If the dock is so big that it makes it difficult to interface with app windows, then dial it down. If it’s so small that you always end up clicking on the wrong app, make it bigger.
The point is — be balanced — don’t go to extremes either way.
5: Hide the dock when necessary
Earlier, I alluded to the fact that I don’t believe in hiding the dock, but there’s always room for compromise from time to time. If you’re like me and take a lot of screenshots or do video tutorials, then there are some situations where it might best if the dock is hidden.
Get familiar with the keyboard shortcut used to hide the dock: ⌘⌥D.
Those were just five ways that you can get more out of the dock in OS X. As you might have imagined, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the meantime, feel free to share your usage tips and opinions in the comment section below. I’m interested to see what you think about some of the suggestions I stated above.