As much as we seldom say it, the Mac is still a personal computer. The “personal” in PC means we have some control over how we set up our Macs.
The best launch utility for organizing applications and files is ready for Leopard. Is it the Dock? No. The Dock is handy but does not hold a candle to DragThing, which may be the top launcher available on a Mac, especially for the average Mac user.
Take a look at your Dock. If you’re like most of us, the Dock gets crowded pretty fast. Yes, it’s handy, sitting down there waiting for a click. It’s visual, and tells you which Mac applications and utilities are running. With a little work, the Dock can become a file launcher, too.
Does the Dock have some shortcomings? A few. First and foremost is clutter. As you add to the Dock, it gets smaller. Magnification helps, but small is small. Hiding the Dock provides for a little more screen real estate, but still takes that extra wrist movement to bring the Dock to life again.
Enter DragThing. Argue with me if you must, but DragThing may well be as close as we get to a perfect Mac utility. It’s ultra simple to get started and use, yet comes with more preferences and settings than most of us will imagine, let alone use.
What is DragThing? It’s a Mac utility that holds your application and document icons. DragThing rests on your Mac as a customizable palette which can be brought to the screen with a hot key or click or the same wrist action used to bring the Dock out of hiding.
DragThing’s palette holds icons to documents, folders, hard drives, applications, utilities, whatever. It’s remarkably simple to use, yet is highly flexible and can be customized to a look and feel to fit the “personal” you on your Mac. Think of DragThing as a series of Dock strips that hold icons just like the Dock, but in rows and columns.
To add an application or utility to the DragThing dock, just drag and drop. To move it around, just drag and drop. Click on the icon and DragThing disappears while the application or file opens. DragThing is fully tabs aware so you can have literally hundreds and hundreds of icons for files, documents, movies, applications, utilities, tools, and so on.
I’ve used DragThing since the Mac classic days and have a simple set up with multiple palettes. There’s a Processes palette on the far right of the screen which is always visible. It shows me what’s running on my Mac at the moment. Click an icon on the palette and the application comes forward on the screen. I also use a Disk Dock which shows me which disks or network connections I have.
By far, the most important palette I use is for Applications and Documents. It’s huge. 10 rows by 13 icons, a total of 130 applications, tools, utilities are visible on my DragThing palette. I set it up to come to the front with a simple mouse movement to the left or right of the Mac’s screen, so all my apps are available without even clicking.
130? Yes. Everything I use regularly is right there. I don’t even need the Mac’s Dock. I move the mouse pointer to the right or left of the screen, a flick of the wrist, and DragThing pops, ready to go. I’m only a single click away from any of the applications, utilities, tools, or documents I use the most.
130? Yes. Does it get confusing to remember where everything is? No. For years I’ve kept all Microsoft’s applications on a specific row. Ditto for Apple’s basic applications, and Adobe’s apps. OS X utilities have their own rows and other utilities I use are kept in the same space on the palette. For example, Mail and Safari and iCal are all located next to each other. Mori, Notebook, and Steel are next to each other. Path Finder is right next to the System Preferences icon.
I use a tab for documents and templates that are used regularly. Click the tab, and all the documents show up with whatever name tag I give them, organized the way I want.
Yes, 130 documents. But I can add another 130 documents just by adding a tab. That’s a lot of complex organization from a single, simple to use location, no keyboard required.
How about navigating for files, documents, utilities, or applications not in the rows on the palette? Simply drag the Documents folder to a spot on the DragThing palette. Then, click and hold the icon. Up pops a navigation dialog box which lets you rummage through your Mac’s files without having to use the Finder. It’s easier than the Finder to find what you want.
The Mac has plenty of ways to launch applications, utilities, and documents, but none are as easy to use, yet as flexible and powerful as DragThing. Power users may find Quicksilver to be quick but it requires plenty of keyboarding a devoted attention. DragThing requires a mere flick of the wrist and a click. Easier. Faster, especially for those of us not wedded to the keyboard.
New DragThing users would do well to download, install (drag and drop, of course) and try it out with a bunch of favorite apps and utilities before getting into customization mode. DragThing is remarkably simple to set up and use, but can be customized almost beyond belief with a near-bewildering array of options and preferences
For years DragThing has been reviewed and usually walks away with top honors and plenty of accolades. And for good reason. DragThing is so good that Apple should have it embedded into OS X. The latest version adds more customization features, and is Leopard ready. If I could have only one such utility, it would be the best $29 ever spent.