One of the really nice improvements in Leopard is the Dock. Before you Mac villagers grab the torches and pitchforks and head up to storm the Kayhill Kastle, hear me out.
Like the Dock or hate the Dock, most of us would agree that the Dock has some good characteristics, but Apple hasn’t listened to our collective suggestions. I figured out how to make the Dock even better.
The chrome ledge? Puhleeze. Let’s not go there. It’s colorful in a gaudy 3-dimension sort of way and probably attractive to Mac newbies, but, really Apple… OK. I won’t go there. Already utilities are popping up to help fix what Apple broke with the new Dock.
One thing they didn’t break was the document section to the right of the Dock, between the applications icons and the trash can. Apple should have focused more attention on what you can do there, but it’s a start. Let good old Alex finish it up so it at least works well enough to use.
The documents section of the Dock lets you drag folders from the Finder to the Dock. Click on a folder and hold, and you get a dialog box with various settings, including the new Stacks feature, which fans out the contents of the folder in the Dock.
Another setting, and my favorite, is Grid. Again, click the folder and hold, and the folder’s contents fan out in a grid so you can see all the colorful and juicy icons inside. That is very handy, attractive, and simple to use—but it looks more than ugly, it’s actually fugly.
Why? Let’s say you drag to the documents section of the Dock your Documents folder or Utilities folder or both or whatever other folder you deem important. What happens to the folder? If it’s empty, you can’t tell one folder from another.
If it’s loaded with files, you see a stack of files as the icon, but still can’t tell which folder you’re dealing with.
Yes, just run your Mac’s mouse pointer across the folder and a little sign pops up above to tell you want folder the mouse is pointing to, but that’s another couple of extra steps because the folders are devoid of visual cues to tell you what the folder is and what might be inside.
Leave it to Alex to figure out a classy way to make the Dock’s documents section even handier and holier than what Apple gave us in Leopard.
Notice the image below. While you may not like Apple’s folder icons, with a little practice you can begin to tell which is which. The “A” icon folder is for Applications, the desktop image icon is for the Desktop. The document icon folder is for, duh, Documents. And so on. Can you guess the other two in the image below?
If you guessed Downloads and Utilities, then you guessed right. See? It works. Also, notice the little black arrow in the bottom left corner of each folder. Each folder is really an alias to the real folder. Here’s what I did to get it that way.
This works with any folder you want to place in the documents section of the Dock. Let me use the Documents folder as the first example.
While in the Finder but outside the Documents folder, create an alias of the Documents folder (right click or control click your mouse for the context menu to create an alias).
Change the name of the alias from “Documents alias” to “_Documents” inserting the underscore at the front of the alias name. That’s important for sorting purposes. Then drag the newly named _Documents alias into the Documents folder.
Now, drag the original Documents folder into the documents area of the Dock. What you’ll see in the Dock is the first icon inside the Documents folder, which is the _Documents alias. Click on the Documents folder alias in the Dock and the Grid or Stack will appear.
Bingo. Instant browser or launcher in the Dock that looks professional, maintains itself even as you add more files into whatever folders you place in the Dock, and provides necessary visual cues so you know which folder to click to get whatever is inside.
Of course, there are other options and other ways to do nearly the same thing in the Dock, but this one works well, is simple to set up and stays that way. As always, your mileage may vary.
Update – A Mac360 reader sent us a link to an Automator action which accomplishes the same objective, without using an alias. It’s a bit more complicated to set up, but once the action is properly installed, it works quickly and efficiently. Click Here to download the Automator action.
And – Another Mac360 reader pointed us to a new Mac-oriented web site called “Leopard Docks” which has plenty of Dock styles and utilities available. Click Here for Leopard Docks.
Love the Dock? Or hate the Dock? What do you use instead of the Dock? Talk Back to Mac360 in the Comments section below.