Short Take: OS X Dock Is More Than A Wannabe Start Menu,Thanks To ‘Docklets’

But I have so little of any of these things!

Frodo, Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

This is, by far, the STUPIDEST thing Iive ever seen.

Brett Hack, "satisfied" user of Cat-in-the-Dock iDockleti

Starting about one week before Xmas, I began using OS X full time on my shiny new iBook 600 CDRW/DVD-ROM. The only thing I run in "Classic" nowadays is Macromedia Dreamweaver, which should be OS X-ready any day now....

Thanks to the last two three-day work weeks and a preceding period of time at home and in the hospital, Iim slowly coming to appreciate OS X more than before, thanks to marathon sessions with Office X and VirualPC 5. During the day, I sit at work in front of an IBM ThinkPad T21, running Windows NT; by night, Iim at my iBook or my G4 Cube, each running OS X 10.1. Forcing myself to undertake a full-immersion Aqua plunge has helped me realize two things more clearly: 1) OS X is better than I have given it credit for -- gripes notwithstanding and 2) the Dock is ultimately a better-designed "Start Menu" than the Windows Start Menu has ever been.

For me, the former realization stems from a daily, compare-and-contrast experience between the two platforms; the latter realization stems from my conclusions about the concept of the Dockling/Docklet. The Start Menu takes function over form; first glance implies that the Dock takes form over function, but truth is that it provides both.

My preferring the Dock over the Start Menu is admittedly a subjective and biased preference, but the Dockis usefulness is unlimited, objectively compared to the Start Menu, thanks to the ability of shareware programmers to extend the Dockis functionality with Control-Strip-like apps called Docklets or Docklings (a list of Docklets can be found at www.macosxapps.com. A cursory glance at the Docklets on my Mac convinces me that one of the more important and underappreciated segments of the Mac community is the group of shareware creators who are making the OS X transition more palatable and a truly Mac-like experience.

MacReporter 1.03 by Inferiis: This is my favorite Docklet and the one I used the most. You select your favorite Web sites from MacReporteris list, and MacReporter displays the list when the Docklet is selected. Then, when you see a headline that strikes your fancy, you click on it and MacReporter launches your favorite browser. MacReporter is $12 shareware.

Prefling 1.2.2 by Amar Sagoo: Ever get tired of having to launch the System Preferences and then having to select the desired preference pane? Well, Prefling allows you to select your preference from its menu, and then it launches System Preferences, taking you directly to your desire pane. Prefling is freeware.

Snard 0.8.2 by Gideon Softworks: Some of Snardis features overlap Prefling (accessing SystemPreferences), and some features have now been added to OS X (more Recent Items), but my favorite feature of Snard is the one-click ability to launch apps as the System Administrator which is now part OS Xis Unix side. Snard is $10 shareware.

SetiDockling 1.2 by Remi Zara: Hey SETI@home dudes and dudettes! Monitor your SETI@home client from your Dock. Just like SETI@home, itis free.

This is only a few of the ones that I use. If you have others that you think are indispensable, then be sure to post a quick link below. Iim always looking for more Docklets. Heck, it doesnit even have to be useful; it could be some form of "Dock clutter" like unabashedly annoying Cat-in-the-Dock grin

If you are a connoisseur of all things Mac OS X, you may also agree with my belief that the Dock is one of the crowning achievements of OS X. In time, there will be praise as the Adobeis and Macromediais finally release Carbonized versions of their flagship applications, but we should remember that it is people like Gideon Softworks and Amar Sagoo, the grassroots of the Mac developer community, the people who really keep the platform going and make the Mac a sheer joy, compared to Microsoft Windows.

Rodney O. Lain is a shareware junkie. When he isnit surfing the web for the latest Docklets, he writes his iBrotha column for The Mac Observer, as well as the occasional editorial. Rodney lives in Minnesota, where he is an IT supervisor for The Man at a Fortune 50 company.

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