The Dock

Along one edge of your screen (either the bottom, left, or right) is a colorful banner of icons known as the Dock. The Dock is used as a taskbar, to show which applications you're running, minimized or reduced versions of a document window, and programs you want to use frequently.

The Dock, shown in its default state in Figure 2.18, has several functions, including displaying icons for open applications, storing minimized (but still open ) documents, and providing a resting place for the Trash.

Figure 2.18. The Dock is a useful tool for organizing your desktop.


Whenever you launch an application, its icon will appear in the Dock (if it's not already there), and the icon will bounce as it's opening. When opened, a small triangle will show that it is open. When you quit or close the application, the triangle disappears. (For applications that haven't been set to remain in the dock, the icon may also disappear from the Dock.)

To launch an item that is in the Dock, just click the icon once and the Dock will take it from there. As the application launches, you'll see the icon bounce. When the Dock expands to the full width of the screen, it'll automatically get smaller as you add more icons to it.

Here's a fast overview of how the Dock works and how it's used:

  • Left (or Top) Portion There's a separator bar on the Dock. At its left (or top) are icons for applications. The ones you've opened have a triangle next to them.

  • Right (or Bottom) Portion At the right (or bottom) of the vertical bar are document icons representing the documents you've reduced or minimized.

  • Trash At the extreme right (or bottom) is the Trash, the place to drag files that you want to throw away.


    You can also drag URLs into the document side of the Dock. A single click launches your default Web browser and opens it to the saved address.

  • Separator Bar The separator bar splits the Dock into the application and file/folder areas. To make the Dock larger or smaller, click the separator bar and then move the mouse up to increase the size or down to reduce it if positioned horizontally, or move it left and right if your Dock is positioned vertically. If you hold down the Option key on your keyboard when you do this, the Dock stops at fixed sizes (in 64-pixel increments , to be technical about it).


Moving an icon to the Dock doesn't change the location of the original file or folder. The Dock icon is merely a shortcut to the real file. Unfortunately, if a docked application has been moved, the Dock can no longer launch that application.


Why is a Dock icon suddenly bouncing up and down without letup? It means the program the icon represents is trying to tell you something with an onscreen message. Just click the icon to move to the application and find out what it wants.

Docked Applications

The left (or top) portion of the Dock contains all docked and currently running applications. You can add applications to this side of the Dock to create a quick launching point, no matter where the software is located on your hard drive. Dragging an application icon to the Dock adds it to that location in the Dock.

To make an active application a permanent member of the Dock, simply do the following:

  1. Make sure that the application is running and that its icon appears in the Dock.

  2. Click and hold on the icon to pop up a menu.

  3. Choose the option Keep in Dock. (If the application already has a place in the Dock, you won't be given this option.)

After you've placed an application on the Dock, you can launch it by single-clicking the icon. To switch between active applications, just click the icon in the Dock that you want to become the active application.

You can also switch between open applications by holding down Command-Tab. This moves you through active applications in the Dock in the order in which they appear. When you reach the item you want to bring to the front, release the keys to select it.


Dropping is a shortcut for opening documents. To open a document in a specific application, you can drag and drop the document icon on top of the application icon. In Mac OS X, you can use the application's Dock icon instead of having to locate the real application file on your hard drive.

Also, to force a docked application to accept a dropped document that it doesn't recognize, hold down Command-Option when holding the document over the application icon. The application icon is immediately highlighted, enabling you to perform your drag-and-drop action. (Keep in mind, however, that many applications can only work with files in certain formatsforcing an application to open something it doesn't have the capacity to read won't get you very far!)

To remove an item from the Dock, make sure that the item isn't in use and drag it out of the Dock. It disappears in a puff of smoke (literallytry it and see).

In addition to providing easy access to commonly used applications, the Dock icons also give you feedback about the functions of their applications. While an application is loading, its icon begins to bounce (unless configured not to) and continues bouncing until the software is ready. Also, if an open application needs to get your attention, its icon bounces intermittently until you interact with it. The Dock also signals which applications are running by displaying a small triangle in those application icons. Some applications even customize the Dock's icons to display useful information, such as Mail's ability to show the number of new messages in its Dock icon.

Docked Windows , Files, and Folders

Let's talk about the left, or bottom, portion of the Dock. You can drag commonly used documents to this part of the Dock, and a link to them is stored for later use. You can also drag commonly used folders to this area of the Dock for easy access. Click-holding (or right-clicking) a docked folder displays a list of its contents and the contents of the subfolders in that folder.

Minimized windows labeled by the icon for their associated application are also placed in this portion of the Dock. In addition to easy window recognition, these window miniatures can serve another useful purpose. Depending on the application, minimized windows might continue to update as their associated applications attempt to display new information. QuickTime Player, for example, continues to play movies.

Trash Can

The next feature I'll discuss is the Trash (see Figure 2.19). That's the place you send your files and folders when you decide you no longer need them. The first figure shows the Trash is empty. The second, shown in Figure 2.20, shows the Trash filled with one or more files.

Figure 2.19. This trash can is empty.


Figure 2.20. The trash is full, and the files are ready to be zapped.



The Trash is also used for ejecting disks and CDs. To avoid user fears that this might hurt the contents of the disk, Mac OS X now conveniently changes the Trash icon into the Eject symbol when you drag a disk icon to it.


You don't have to use the Trash when ejecting disks. Ctrl-clicking a mounted volume opens a contextual menu with an Eject option. Alternatively, you can highlight the disk to remove and choose Eject (Command-E) from the Finder's File menu or press the Eject key on some models of the Apple USB keyboard.

Removing Trashed Files

To get rid of your files, simply follow these steps:

  1. Click and drag a program's icon onto the trash can icon, which will be highlighted as soon as the icon is brought atop it. See Figure 2.21 for the effect.

    Figure 2.21. When you release the mouse, the file is placed inside the trash can.


  2. Choose Empty Trash from the Finder's application menu, which opens the request for confirmation, as shown in Figure 2.22.

    Figure 2.22. Do you really want to zap that file?



When you click and hold the trash icon, you'll see an Empty Trash command, which is a fast way to delete its contents. But be forewarned: There is no second chance, no warning. When you choose this command, the contents of the trash are gone.

When you OK the message, the file will be history.


Before you empty the trash, be sure you really want to get rid of those files. If you're not certain, click Cancel. When you dump those files, they are gone, probably for good (although there are a few programs that might recover them if you make a mistake).


The Trash works like a folder. If you're not sure what's inside, just double-click it to open the directory list. If you decide not to trash something, click and drag that icon from it.

Customizing the Dock

After you get used to the idea of the Dock, you probably want to customize it to better suit your needs.

If you have a small monitor, you might want to resize the Dock icons to cover less area. The easiest and fastest way to resize the Dock is to click and hold on the separator bar that divides the Dock areas. As you click and hold on the separator bar, drag up and down or left and right (if your Dock is placed vertically). The Dock dynamically resizes as you move your mouse. Let go of the mouse button when the Dock has reached the size you want.


After playing with different Dock sizes, you might notice that some sizes look better than others. That's because Mac OS X icons come in several native icon sizes, and points between those sizes are scaled images. To choose only native icon sizes, hold down the Option key while using the separator bar to resize.

For more fine-tuning of the Dock, turn to the System Preferences panel. The Dock has a settings panel in System Preferences for adjusting its size and icon magnification and for making it disappear when not in use.

When you've made your selections, choose Quit (Command-Q) from the System Preferences application menu.

Sams Teach Yourself Mac OS X Digital Media. All In One
Sams Teach Yourself Mac OS X Digital Media All In One
ISBN: 0672325322
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 349 © 2008-2017.
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