OS X: 5 Quick Dock Tips!

Ah, the Dock. Is there anything that screams “Mac OS” quite like its bright, colorful icons? There are tons of ways, too, that we can tweak it to our liking, and today, I’m gonna talk about just a few of my favorites. I’m sure going to be sad when OS XI takes out the Dock and makes us open programs with brain implants or whatever.


1. Putting in Dock Spacers

There’s a Terminal command (which fortunately still works in El Capitan) that’ll let you add blank spacers to your Dock, so if you wanna micromanage your shortcuts in some fashion, you can! What you’ll do is open Terminal from Applications > Utilities and then copy and paste the following:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add '{tile-type="spacer-tile";}'

Press Return, and then paste this in and press Return again:

killall Dock

That’ll force your Dock to restart itself, and then you’ll have a funny little blank icon to drag around and reposition.

Want more spacers? Just follow the above steps again—and in Terminal, you can tap the Up Arrow key to cycle through the last things you typed in for quick re-dos. You could, I suppose, have tons of those spacers if that seems somehow more organized to you. That’s really weird, though.

Oh, and to get rid of your spacers, simply drag them up and out of the Dock and let go.


2. Resize and Show Preferences

Hey, you know that little line that’s visible on the right side of your Dock? The one that separates your folder and file shortcuts from your apps? There are a few things you can do with that divider. First, when you hover over it as I’ve done below, your cursor will switch to a double-sided arrow. When you see that, just click and drag up and down to adjust the Dock’s size.

Secondly, right- or Control-clicking on the line will get you a quick shortcut menu for the most commonly used Dock settings.

And as you can see, you can also jump right into System Preferences > Dock by choosing that bottom option.


3. Indicators: On or Off?

Those familiar dots that appear underneath any running program in the Dock can be turned off or on within System Preferences > Dock.

If you toggle off that setting, your Dock will get rid of those indicators—so if you find them distracting, that’s the way to go. (And while you’re there, check out the other possible changes you could make to the way your Dock behaves.)

I personally can’t live without those helpful dots myself, but I’ll try hard not to judge you for disliking them.


4. Right-Click on Folders

Got some folders stored on the right side of your Dock? Hate the way that they show up as stacks, which look different whenever something new is put in there? Change it! Do that by right- or Control-clicking on any of ’em, and you’ll get a contextual menu to switch things up. 

There are a bunch of choices there—including changing how the items within the folder appear and sort themselves when you click on your shortcut—but my favorite thing to do is to adjust the preference in the middle. Switch “Stack” to “Folder,” and not only will the icon never change again based on what you put in that folder, but any customized icon you’ve got for it will show up.

Oh, you want to set custom folder icons, too? Sandro Cuccia’s got you covered in an earlier tip.


5. Interact with Apps

Finally, if you right- or Control-click on a running program’s icon, you can often tell that app to do things without having to actually switch to it first. For example, you can compose a new Mail message…

…create a new Calendar event…

…or see what song is playing in iTunes and pause or skip it.

And no, I don’t typically listen to Raffi sing little kids’ songs while I’m writing. It was just the first thing I clicked on, OK? And I was too lazy to take the screenshot again. And then I ended up listening to the whole song because it made me smile. 

They sell Raffi songs on iTunes, right? I…may need more.