(Or: Using the Dock, Dock accessories, and Dock alternatives.)
The Dock is probably the most recognizable—and controversial, if the discussion of it around the Internet is any indication—element of Mac OS X. If the Finder is, as I proposed in Chapter 5, the center of Mac OS X activity in general, the Dock is the center of application-related activity. It provides a straightforward way to launch applications, access application options, monitor application status, switch between running applications, and switch between windows within each application.
However, the Dock's functionality goes beyond just working with applications. It also lets you "store" Finder and application windows that you aren't currently using and, set up properly, lets you quickly access files and folders. It provides all this functionality in an interface that is intended to be easily accessible and easy to understand.
That said, because it tries to remain simple to use, and it appears to be a fixture that can't easily be replaced, the Dock has also taken its fair share of criticism. Users want additional features, better organization, easier customization, and quite a bit more. If the sheer number of Dock add-ons, alternatives, and outright replacements available around the Internet is any indication, a lot of users just aren't happy with their Dock. In this chapter, I'm going to cover how to take advantage of what the Dock can do and provide you with some solutions for the things it can't.