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Clean up and Personalize the Dock

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/10/2009

Teaching your Mac how you want it to act and look is very important, and it is something that many users overlook, especially when it comes to fine-tuning the Mac for greater productivity. Do you have too many icons on the Dock, not enough, or have trouble managing the Dock?

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    Do You Have a Messy Dock?

    If any of the following statements are true about your or your Mac’s Dock, you need to clean it up:

    • You have so many items on the Dock that you must get out your reading glasses to make them out.
    • The Dock contains items you never use.
    • The Dock gets in your way and hides the information bar in an application like Photoshop or it prevents you from clicking the Contact Us link at the bottom of a Web page.
    • Each time you open a text document, it opens in the trial version of Word instead of AppleWorks where you’d like it to.
    • The Finder shows icons and there are just too many to sort through. You should be viewing the items another way, perhaps as a list.
    • The applications are buried in the Applications folder and it takes too long to locate and open each one.
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    Remove Icons from the Dock

    Take a few minutes to look at your Dock, take inventory of your software and hardware, and write down what you use your Mac for on most days. Now, take a look at the Dock and see if there’s anything there you simply don’t use that often. If you don’t have a DV camera, you probably don’t need iMovie. If you don’t listen to music, you probably don’t need iTunes. You can remove any icon you don’t want by dragging it off of the Dock to an empty area of the desktop. (You can always drag it back from the Applications folder if you desire.) Here are some ideas:

    • Remove the System Preferences icon; once preferences are set, they’re set. If you need to change preferences later, go to HD>Applications>System Preferences.
    • Remove any application you don’t use weekly, including GarageBand, iMovie, Address Book, iPhoto, iCal, and QuickTime Player. These can be located later in the Applications folder.
    • Remove the Preview icon. Preview opens automatically when you need it. You might not want its icon gunking up your Dock.
    • Remove any folders you’ve added that you no longer use. (These are on the right side of the Dock).

    Take a look at the differences between a messy Dock and a clean one. [See Image 1] [See Image 2]

    Page Two has more tips...

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    The Mac Dock

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    Add Icons

    Because the Dock is the center of Mac OS X, you’ll want it to be as personalized as possible and include the items you use most often. From the Dock, you can launch programs, switch between programs, quit programs, and more. Of course, with the little black triangles underneath running programs, you can also see which ones are immediately available.

    Just as important as removing unnecessary programs and folders from the Dock is adding customized programs and folders. Here are some ideas for personalizing the right side of the Dock:

    • Add the Applications folder--Open the HD and drag the Applications folder to the right side of the Dock.
    • Add your Home folder--Open HD>Users and drag your Home folder to the right side of the Dock.
    • Add your Documents folder--Open the Finder, open your Home folder, and drag the Documents folder to the right side of the Dock.
    • Add the Shared Documents folder--If you share your computer with others, and you use the Shared Documents folder to share data, open the HD>Users folder and drag the Shared documents folder to the right side of the Dock.

    You can also add items to the left side of the Dock:

    • Add Internet Explorer--If you use Internet Explorer instead of Safari, open the Applications folder and drag its icon to the left side of the Dock.
    • Add a favorite program--If you use Photoshop, BounceBack, ElGato EyeTV, or other third-party applications daily, open the Applications folder and drag their icons to the left side of the Dock.
    • Printer utility--If you need daily access to your printer software, drag its icon to the left side of the Dock.

    Here’s how I configure my Dock. [See Image 3]

    Tip: If, after opening a program, you decide you want to leave its icon on the Dock permanently, Control+click the icon and select Keep In Dock. The icon will remain in the Dock after the program has been closed.

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    Auto-Hide, Shrink and Enlarge, Move, Magnification, and Effects

    There are several ways to personalize the size and feel of the Dock:

    • You can use Auto-Hide to remove the display of the Dock and then bring it back whenever you need it.
    • You can shrink or enlarge the Dock.
    • You can move the Dock to another area of the screen.
    • You can change how the Dock’s icons are magnified when the pointer is moved over them.
    • You can even configure what effects are used when applications are minimized.

    All of these options are configured from the same area of your Mac’s interface, so let’s take a look at that now:

    1. Open Applications>System Preferences>Dock.

    2. To change the Dock’s size, move the Dock Size slider. You’ll see the changes immediately.

    Tip: If you just want to resize the Dock, you can click and drag the dividing line on the Dock itself up and down. This saves opening System Preferences.

    3. To change how icons are magnified when the mouse is used to hover over them, check Magnification and move the slider to the right or left to configure it. Use your mouse to see the changes immediately.

    4. To change the Dock’s position on the screen, select Left, Bottom, or Right.

    5. To change the effect used when applications are minimized to the Dock, select Scale Effect or Genie Effect.

    Tip: When a program is minimized, it disappears in a “genie in a bottle” fashion. If you’d like programs to go away faster, switch from Genie Effect to Scale Effect.

    6. To turn off animations when programs are opened, uncheck Animate Opening Animations. (The less work your Mac has to do to perform a task, the faster it will do it.)

    7. To hide and show the Dock automatically when the pointer is moved over the area of the screen where the Dock usually resides, check Automatically Hide And Show The Dock. (To manually show the Dock only when necessary, leave this unchecked and use Command+Option+D as needed.)

    8. Close this window.

    Tip: If you feel as if the Dock is always in the way, or if it ever prevents you from viewing a necessary part of a program’s interface, such as an information line that runs across the bottom of the screen or the last part of a Web page, you’ll want to hide the Dock.

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