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Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Setting Up the Dock

Apple starts the Dock off with a few icons it thinks you'll enjoy: Dashboard, QuickTime Player, iTunes, iChat, Mail, the Safari Web browser, and so on. But using your Mac without putting your own favorite icons in the Dock is like buying an expensive suit and turning down the free alteration service. At the first opportunity, you should make the Dock your own.

The concept of the Dock is simple: Any icon you drag onto it (Figure 4-1) is installed there as a button. (You can even drag an open window onto the Dock—a Microsoft Word document you're editing, say—using its proxy icon [Close Button] as a handle.)

A single click, not a double-click, opens the corresponding icon. In other words, the Dock is an ideal parking lot for the icons of disks, folders, documents, programs, and Internet bookmarks that you access frequently.

Tip

You can install batches of icons onto the Dock all at once—just drag them as a group. That's something you can't do with the other parking places for favorite icons, like the Sidebar and the Finder toolbar.

To add an icon to the Dock, simply drag it there. You haven't moved the original file; when you release the mouse, it remains where it was. You've just installed a pointer—like a Macintosh alias or Windows shortcut.

Figure 4-1. To add an icon to the Dock, simply drag it there. You haven't moved the original file; when you release the mouse, it remains where it was. You've just installed a pointer—like a Macintosh alias or Windows shortcut.

Here are a few aspects of the Dock that may throw you at first:

  • It has two sides. See the whitish dotted line running down the Dock? That's the divider (Figure 4-1). Everything on the left side is an application—a program. Everything else goes on the right side: files, documents, folders, disks, and minimized windows.

    It's important to understand this division. If you try to drag an application to the right of the line, for example, Mac OS X teasingly refuses to accept it. (Even aliases observe that distinction. Aliases of applications can go only on the left side, and vice versa.)

  • Its icon names are hidden. To see the name of a Dock icon, point to it without clicking. You'll see the name appear above the icon.

    When you're trying to find a certain icon in the Dock, run your cursor slowly across the icons without clicking; the icon labels appear as you go. You can often identify a document just by looking at its icon.

  • Folders and disks sprout stacks. If you click a folder or disk icon in the right side of the Dock, a list of its contents sprouts from the icon. It's like X-ray vision without the awkward moral consequences. Turn the page for details on stacks.

  • Programs appear there unsolicited. Nobody but you (and Apple) can put icons on the right side of the Dock. But program icons appear on the left side of the Dock automatically whenever you open a program, even one that's not listed in the Dock. Its icon remains there for as long as it's running.

Tip

The Dock's translucent, reflective look is something to behold. Some people actually find it too translucent. But using TinkerTool, you can tone down the Dock's translucence—a great way to show off at user group meetings. See TinkerTool: Customization 101 for details.

Organizing and Removing Dock Icons

You can move the tiles of the Dock around by dragging them horizontally. As you drag, the other icons scoot aside to make room. When you're satisfied with its new position, drop the icon you've just dragged.

To remove a Dock icon, just drag it away. (You can't remove the icons of the Finder, the Trash, the Dock icon of an open program, or any minimized document window.) Once your cursor has cleared the Dock, release the mouse button. The icon disappears, its passing marked by a charming little puff of animated cartoon smoke. The other Dock icons slide together to close the gap.

Tip

You can replace the "puff of smoke" animation with one of your own, as described on Replacing the Poof.

Something weird happens if you drag away a Dock program's icon while that program is running. You don't see any change immediately, because the program is still open. But when you quit the program, you'll see that its previously installed icon is no longer in the Dock.

Stacks

A stack is what you get when you click a disk or folder icon on the Dock—and it's one of Leopard's marquee new features. The effect is shown in Figure 4-2.

Tip

If you press Shift as you click, the stack opens in slow motion. Amaze your friends.

In essence, Mac OS X is fanning out the folder's contents so you can see all of them. If it could talk, it would be saying, "Pick a card, any card."

Tip

You can change how the icons in a particular stack fan are sorted: alphabetically, chronologically, or whatever. Just choose "Sort by" from the Dock folder's shortcut menu, and choose from the submenu. Your choices are Name, Date Added (to the Dock), Date Modified, Date Created, or Kind.

Fan vs. grid

Sometimes there are too many icons in a folder to fit in a fan. In that case, the stack becomes a grid instead (Figure 4-2, bottom). The grid, of course, holds many more icons than the fan, although it's not as pretty.

Top: When you click the icon of a folder or disk on the Dock (just one single click), you get this effect: a rainbow that shows what's inside. Click an icon to open it, just as though you'd double-clicked it in a window. You can even Option-click one icon after another, opening them all while the stack remains arrayed before you.Or grab an icon and drag it right out of the stack—into another window, say.Bottom: If there are too many icons to fit in the arc (as determined by your monitor size), you get this grid instead. Alas, here, too, space is limited. If there are more than fits on the grid, click the "35 more in Finder" icon at the lower right. You go to the folder's regularly scheduled window, where you can see the complete list of icons)

Figure 4-2. Top: When you click the icon of a folder or disk on the Dock (just one single click), you get this effect: a rainbow that shows what's inside. Click an icon to open it, just as though you'd double-clicked it in a window. You can even Option-click one icon after another, opening them all while the stack remains arrayed before you. Or grab an icon and drag it right out of the stack—into another window, say. Bottom: If there are too many icons to fit in the arc (as determined by your monitor size), you get this grid instead. Alas, here, too, space is limited. If there are more than fits on the grid, click the "35 more in Finder" icon at the lower right. You go to the folder's regularly scheduled window, where you can see the complete list of icons)

But you can force a certain Dock folder to sprout a fan or a grid all the time, rather than letting Mac OS X decide. From the Dock folder's shortcut menu (Stacks), choose View As→Fan or View As→Grid.

From now on, you'll always get the fan, or always get the grid.

Note

When your Dock is positioned on a side of the screen instead of the bottom, you alwaysget the grid, never the fan. The View As command doesn't even appear in the shortcut menu.

Both the grid and the fan have limited storage space for icons. (The exact number depends on your monitor size. In any case, if there are too many icons to display at once, the last icon says, "24 more in Finder" (or whatever the number is). Click that icon to open the folder's regular window, where all the contents are available.

Of course, then you've defeated the fan's step-saving purpose.

Tip

The ideal solution, of course, would be what Mac OS X had in 10.0 through 10.4: a simple pop-up list of everything in a Dock folder. That's exactly what you get with the free program Quay, available for download from this book's "Missing CD" at www.missingmanuals.com

Ready-made stacks

When you first install Mac OS X 10.5, you get a couple of starter stacks just to get you psyched. One is called Downloads; the other is Documents. (Both of these folders are physically inside your Home folder. But you may well do most of your interacting with them on the Dock.)

The Downloads folder, new in Leopard, collects three kinds of Internet arrivals:

  • Files you download from the Web using Safari

  • Files you receive in an iChat file-transfer session

  • File attachments you get via email using Mail.

Unless you intervene, they're sorted by the date you downloaded them.

It's handy to know where to find your downloads, and nice not to have them all cluttering your desktop.

Tip

Once you've opened a stack's fan or grid, you can drag any of the icons right out of the fan or grid. Just drag your chosen icon onto the desktop or into any visible disk or folder. In other words, what lands in the Downloads folder doesn't have to stay there.

Creating and removing stacks

Creating a new stack is easy. Just drag anyfolder or disk icon onto the right end of the Dock. That's right: All folders and disks become stacks when clicked on the Dock.

Therefore, to get a stack off the Dock, drag its folder icon away from the Dock and let go. You're not deleting the actual folder—just its Dock shortcut.

Tip

In Leopard, folder icons on the Dock can actually change to reflect their contents. That can be a little disorienting, since you can't get to know a folder by its icon—it keeps changing!

The solution is simple: Put an alias of the folder on the Dock instead of the folder itself. Its icon will never change. (Folder aliases don't open into stacks or hierarchical contents menus, however.)

Type-selecting in stacks

Once a fan or grid is on the screen, you can highlight any icon in it by typing the first few letters of its name. For example, once you've popped open your Applications-folder stack, you can highlight Safari (for example) by typing sa. (Press Enter or Return to open the highlighted icon.)

Tip

If your mouse has a scroll wheel, it may be faster to whip through the icons by rolling that.

Bypassing stacks

If you just want to see what's in a folder, without all the graphic overkill of the fan or thegrid, choose Open "Applications" (or whatever the folder's name is) from the Dock folder's shortcut menu (Stacks). You go straight to the corresponding window.

Another possibility: ⌘-click the folder's icon. You jump immediately to the window that contains that folder's icon. That's not exactly the same thing as opening the Dock folder, but it's sometimes even more useful.

Tip

Actually, this trick has nothing to do with stacks. ⌘-clicking any icon on the Dock (or any listing in the Spotlight menu, for that matter) opens to its enclosing folder, so you can see it in its natural habitat.

Three Ways to Get the Dock Out of Your Hair

The bottom of the screen isn't necessarily the ideal location for the Dock. All Mac screens are wider than they are tall, so the Dock eats into your limited vertical screen space. You have three ways out: Hide the Dock, shrink it, or rotate it 90 degrees.

Auto-hiding the Dock

To turn on the Dock's auto-hiding feature, choose →Dock→Turn Hiding On (or press Option-⌘-D).

Tip

You also find this on/off switch when you choose →Dock→Dock Preferences (Figure 4-3), or when you click the System Preferences icon in the Dock, and then the Dock icon. (System Preferences contains much more about the System Preferences program.)

When the Dock is hidden, it doesn't slide into view until you move the cursor to the Dock's edge of the screen. When you move the cursor back to the middle of the screen, the Dock slithers out of view once again. (Individual Dock icons may occasionally shoot upward into Desktop territory when a program needs your attention—cute, very cute—but otherwise, the Dock lies low until you call for it.)

On paper, an auto-hiding Dock is ideal; it's there only when you summon it. In practice, however, you may find that the extra half-second the Dock takes to appear and disappear makes this feature slightly less appealing.

Many Mac fans prefer to hide and show the Dock at will by pressing the hide/show keystroke, Option-⌘-D. This method makes the Dock pop on and off the screen without requiring you to move the cursor.

Shrinking and enlarging the Dock

Depending on your screen's size, you may prefer smaller or larger Dock buttons. The official way to resize them goes like this: Choose Dock→Dock Preferences. In the resulting dialog box, drag the Dock Size slider, as shown in Figure 4-3.

To find a comfortable setting for the Magnification slider, choose →Dock→Dock Preferences. Leave the Dock Preferences window open on the screen, as shown here. After each adjustment of the Dock Size slider, try out the Dock (which still works when the Dock Preferences window is open) to test your new settings.

Figure 4-3. To find a comfortable setting for the Magnification slider, choose →Dock→Dock Preferences. Leave the Dock Preferences window open on the screen, as shown here. After each adjustment of the Dock Size slider, try out the Dock (which still works when the Dock Preferences window is open) to test your new settings.

There's a much faster way to resize the Dock, however: Just position your cursor carefully in the Dock's divider line, so that it turns into a double-headed arrow (shown in Figure 4-4). Now drag up or down to shrink or enlarge the Dock.

Look closely—you can see the secret cursor that resizes the Dock. If you don't see any change in the Dock size as you drag upward, you've reached the size limit. The Dock's edges are already approaching your screen sides.

Figure 4-4. Look closely—you can see the secret cursor that resizes the Dock. If you don't see any change in the Dock size as you drag upward, you've reached the size limit. The Dock's edges are already approaching your screen sides.

Tip

If you press Option as you drag, the Dock snaps to certain canned icon sizes+0151those that the programmer actually drew. (You won't see the in-between sizes that Mac OS X generally calculates on the fly.)

As noted in Figure 4-4, you may not be able to enlarge the Dock, especially if it contains a lot of icons. But you can make it almost infinitely smaller. This may make you wonder: How can you distinguish between icons if they're the size of molecules?

The answer lies in the Dock→Turn Magnification On command. What you've just done is trigger the swelling effect shown in Figure 4-3. Now your Dock icons balloon to a much larger size as your cursor passes over them. It's a weird, magnetic, rippling, animated effect that takes some getting used to. But it's another spectacular demonstration of the graphics technology in Mac OS X, and it can actually come in handy when you find your icons shrinking away to nothing.

Tip

New in Leopard: on-the-fly magnifying!

If you press Shift-Control as your cursor approaches the Dock, the icons swell into magnification mode even if magnification is turned off in the Dock menu. (The icons swell to whatever maximum size you specified in System Preferences (Figure 4-3).

Moving the Dock to the sides of the screen

Yet another approach to getting the Dock out of your way is to rotate it, so that it sits vertically against a side of your screen. You can rotate it in either of two ways:

  • The menu way. From the Dock submenu, choose "Positionon Left," "Position on Right," or "Position on Bottom," as you see fit.

  • The mouse way. While pressing Shift, drag the Dock's divider line, like a handle, to the side of the screen you want.

You'll probably find that the right side of your screen works better than the left. Most Mac OS X programs put their document windows against the left edge of the screen, where the Dock and its labels might get in the way.

Note

When you position your Dock vertically, the "right" side of the Dock becomes the bottom of the vertical Dock. In other words, the Trash now appears at the bottom of the vertical Dock. So as you read references to the Dock in this book, mentally substitute the phrase "bottom part of the Dock" when you read references to the "right side of the Dock."

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