Using Items on the Dock

By default, the Dock is preconfigured with various icons you can begin using right away. When you point to an item on the Dock, a tooltip appears above the icon that provides the name of the item.

The default items on the Dock can include the following:

  • Finder The Finder icon opens a new default Finder window (Computer or the user's Home directory) if no Finder windows are visible on the desktop. If at least one Finder window is open on the desktop, clicking the Finder icon doesn't do anything. If you hold down the Control key while you click this icon, you will see a list of all Finder windows that are open; choose a window from the list to move into it.

  • Mail Mail is Mac OS X's e-mail application. When you receive e-mail, an attention icon showing how many new messages you have received will appear. If you hold down the Control key while you click this, you can choose from several commands, such as Get New Mail and Compose New Message.

  • iChat This is Apple's instant messaging application you can use to communicate with others on your local network or over the Internet (it is compatible with AOL Instant Messenger).

  • Address Book Address Book is Mac OS X's contact manager application. You can store all sorts of information for everyone with whom you communicate, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

  • Internet Explorer Internet Explorer continues to be the default Web browser under Mac OS X.

  • iTunes iTunes is the Mac's excellent digital music application. Its Dock menu offers various controls you can use to control music playback from the Dock.

  • iPhoto iPhoto is Mac OS X's awesome image cataloging, editing, and sharing application.

  • iMovie iMovie is as powerful and easy to use as applications get; you can use it to create and edit your own digital video masterpieces.

  • Sherlock The Sherlock application empowers you to find just about anything, just about anywhere. Moving to version 3.0 with Mac OS X version 10.2, Sherlock now has even better search capabilities.

  • QuickTime Player You use the QuickTime Player to view QuickTime movies.

  • System Preferences The System Preferences utility enables you to configure and customize various aspects of Mac OS X. You will be using it frequently, which is why its icon is included on the Dock by default.

  • Readme Documents On the right end of the Dock, to the left of the Trash, you might see some readme and help documents that Apple has included to provide late-breaking news about Mac OS X.

  • Trash Some things never change; under Mac OS X, the Trash does what it always has. It is now located on the right end of the Dock.


One difference between the Mac OS X Trash and previous versions is that when you drag a disk to eject it, the Trash's icon changes to the Eject symbol. This helps newer users understand what they are doing when they use this most counterintuitive aspect of the Mac OS.

Using items on the Dock is as easy as it gets. Simply click an icon to open whatever the item is. If the icon is for an application, that application will open (or move to the front if it is already open). If the item is a document, the document will open. If the item is a folder, the folder will open in a new Finder window. If the item is a dockling, a pop-up menu containing commands will appear. If the icon is a minimized Finder window, that window will become active and move onto the desktop.


When you click an application's icon, you might notice that it "bounces" as the application opens. This provides feedback to you that your selection was registered with the OS and it is working on opening your application. You can turn this feature off, as you will learn later in this chapter.

Unless the application is installed on the Dock (in which case the icon remains in the same position), the icon for each application you open appears on the right edge of the application area of the Dock. As you open more applications, the existing application icons shift to the left and each icon becomes slightly smaller.


The Dock is very insistent about getting your attention, even when it is hidden. If the Dock is hidden and an application needs to present information to you, such as an error dialog box, its icon will appear to bounce up from "nowhere" and continue to bounce up and down until you switch to that application to see what it has to say.

To move among the open applications you see on the Dock, you can press graphics/symbol.gif+Tab. When you do, the icon for the open application you are selecting becomes highlighted and you see the application's name above its icon. When you release the graphics/symbol.gif+Tab keys, the application you select becomes active (and visible if it is hidden). You can move backward through the applications on the Dock by pressing Shift+graphics/symbol.gif+Tab.


If an application is open but its windows are minimized, when you select that application with the graphics/symbol.gif+Tab shortcut, you will move into the application, but any windows that are minimized will not appear. You have to click a minimized window for it to move back onto the desktop.

Unlike open applications, open documents don't automatically appear on the Dock. Document icons appear on the Dock only when you add them to the Dock manually or when you have minimized the document's window. Remember that when you Control+click on an application's icon in the Dock, you will see a list of all documents open in the application. You can choose a listed document to move into it.


Just like all icons on the Dock, the names of folders, minimized windows, and documents are shown above their icons when you point to them.

When you minimize a window, by default, the window moves into the Dock using the Genie Effect during which it is "pulled" down into the Dock and becomes an icon that is a thumbnail view of the window. The icon for a minimized window behaves just like icons for other items. To open (or maximize) a minimized window, click its icon on the Dock and it is "pulled" back onto the desktop. You can change this so that the Scale Effect is used instead. This looks like the window is being quickly scaled down while it is placed on the Dock. Functionally, these effects do the same thing, but the Scale Effect is a bit faster, although not as impressive looking.


Minimized windows are marked with the application's icon so that you can easily tell what application the windows come from. For example, minimized Finder windows have the Finder icon in the lower corner, and minimized Internet Explorer icons have the Internet Explorer icon.


Remember that you can quickly minimize an open window by pressing graphics/symbol.gif+M.

When you minimize an application window, it is moved onto the Dock, just like any other window. However, when you hide an application, its window does not appear on the Dock. The hidden application's icon continues to be marked with the arrow so that you know that the application is running.

As you add items to the Dock, the icons on the Dock will continue to get smaller and the Dock will expand so that it shows all open items as well as the icons that are permanently installed on the Dock (see Figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2. The items on the Dock shrink and the Dock expands so that you can have as many items on it as you'd like (compare this figure to Figure 5.1).


Just as with an application's icon, if you point to a folder, application, or dockling icon on the Dock and press the Control key while you click, a pop-up menu will appear. What is on this menu depends on what you click.


If you don't want to press the Control key while you click, just click an icon and hold down the mouse button. The menu will appear after a second or two.

When you use Dock icons, the following outcomes are possible:

  • If you open the icon menu for the Finder icon, the pop-up menu shows a list of all the open Finder windows whether the windows are minimized or are on the desktop. Select a window on the menu to make it active.

  • If you open the menu for the icon of a closed application, folder, or document, you will see the Show In Finder command, which opens a Finder window containing the item on which you clicked; the item is selected when the Finder window containing it appears. This can be a quick way to find out where something is located.

  • If you open the menu for a folder, the menu becomes a hierarchical menu showing the contents of that folder. You can display the contents of any folder within that folder and you can select any item on the menu to open it (this function is quite similar to what you can do with the Apple menu under previous versions of the Mac OS).

  • If you open the menu for a dockling, the commands provided by that dockling will appear.

  • If you open the icon menu for a URL reference or other item (such as a minimized document window), an identification bubble appears above the icon to explain what the item is.

  • If you open the icon menu for an open application, you will see some basic commands, including Quit. You will also see a list of open windows; you can quickly jump to an open window by choosing it. Some applications also enable you to control what is happening from the pop-up menu. For example, when iTunes is open, you can control music playback by using its icon menu.

When you quit an open application, its icon disappears from the Dock?unless you have added that application to the Dock so that it always appears there. Minimized windows disappear from the Dock when you maximize them or when you close the application from which the document window comes.


If you fill up the Dock with many open applications, documents, and folders, it can be a nuisance to switch to each item and close it. Instead, log out (choose Apple menu, Log Out, or press Shift+graphics/symbol.gif+Q). When you log out, all open applications are shut down, all documents are closed, and all minimized folder windows are removed from the Dock. When you log back in, the Dock will be back to "normal." All Finder windows that were on the Dock will be gone from there, but they will remain open on the desktop. Hold down the Option key and click the Close box of one of the open windows to close them all.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle