The only computer I own that has more apps on it than my Mac is my iPhone. iOS 4 makes it easier to add and find apps. Hundreds of apps.
For Mac users who collect apps the Dock gets crowded so we look for an easier way. Here are two ways to launch Mac apps and documents. One is free and complex. The other is not free but remarkably easy to use and comes with a bunch more features.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Most Mac users have no major issues with the Dock. It’s not perfect. But it is convenient, easy to understand, and simple to use. Even with wide screen Macs, the Dock can get crowded with apps that get smaller as the number of apps grows.
Is there a way to add functionality to the Dock without adding expense?
Of course. My Dock is as crowded with apps as a Mac can get (all my apps won’t fit). So, I grabbed the Applications folder and dragged it to the right side of the Dock (left of the trash can).
Now, when I click on the Application folder, I get a huge pop up grid of all the apps on my Mac. That’s the good. The bad is that the grid takes up plenty of screen real estate and I still have to scroll to find an app, then click again.
You can do the same thing with Documents. Drag the Documents folder to the left of the Dock’s trash can (to the right of the Applications folder). Now, one click gets you a pop up grid and scrollable access to all your Document files.
See the trend? You’ve extended the Dock to do more. Getting to all those extra files, folders, and apps is an extra click or two, but still easy.
Add A Dock To The Menubar
At the other end of your Mac’s screen, the top, is another crowded space—the Mac Menubar. Even with wide screen Macs there’s a limit to how many apps, utilities, tools, and alarms you can park in the Menubar.
Enter Boxtop, a Mac app that acts like another Dock (only on top), and works like the Dock. Drag and drop apps and utilities and you get a floating Dock-like launcher with a bunch of extra features.
Easy, right? For those apps you use the most, move them from the Dock to Boxtop’s floating Dock at the top of the screen. The bar can be squeezed or expanded in size, left to right.
You put the regular Dock in Hide mode to give you more screen space because you can launch and quit apps from Boxtop in the Menubar. Click the Boxtop icon in the Menubar, and, like the Dock, it disappears.
So Far, So Good, Not Quite
In theory and initial practice, Boxtop is decent and relieves some of the overcrowding in the Dock. Boxtop is not without some issues—the first of which is a dearth of examples and simple how-to use it graphics on the Boxtop web site. It claims to organize all your Menubar apps (which is another crowded area) but doesn’t show how or examples.
I could drag a Menubar app into Boxtop’s tray, but the icon remained in the Menubar which is already overcrowded.
The second issue goes to real world efficiency and productivity.
In the end, Boxtop is merely another way to do the same thing in the same amount of clicks and strokes as the Dock. You still have to click to invoke Boxtop from the Menubar (crowded again) and scroll left or right to find an app’s icon and then click to launch.
The Dock may have detractors and limitations but it is easy to use for the Mac masses, and the Dock is easily customized to fit personal tastes and usage. Any Dock replacement or add on must be able to provide extended or additional functionality, match the Dock’s simplicity, and perhaps provide functionality for users with more experience (I’m thinking DragThing). For now, even the modest price isn’t enough to add value to the average Mac user.