What? The Mac’s built-in Dock isn’t enough of an app launcher for me? Yeah, well, there’s this problem with real estate and fading vision. Add more apps, the Dock icons get smaller. Prune the apps, then how do you launch?
Fortunately, Apple gives us many, many ways to launch apps. The Dock, the Finder, and, uh, um, well… thanks to third party app developers who see the need to go beyond the basics. Here’s a new one that is partly tried and true, but requires little effort to use, but bumps up against the age old screen real estate problem.
Dock vs. Pier
There is a difference between a dock and a pier, and likewise, there’s a difference between the Mac’s built-in Dock app launcher, and App Pier, also a Mac app launcher. The differences are more obvious when used. App Pier is keyboard centric. The Dock, not so much.
App Pier works simply enough. It resides in the Menubar and can be invoked with a click or a custom keyboard combo.
Drag and drop selects which apps to put into the drop down menu. Drag on, drag off. But apps can be rearranged, too. Use a keyboard shortcut to launch an app from the Menubar or just type the app’s name to select it to launch.
Applications that are open and running have a border bar. If you’re so fortunate to have a new MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, App Pier also lets you use it as a launch. All things considering, especially the price tag which gives you change from $2, App Pier is, well, decent.
If you don’t mind spending a few dollars more to get a substantial increase in features and functionality, check out Tab Launcher. It’s like having a customizable Dock which comes with tabs and can be moved all around the Mac’s screen.
While App Pier is a keyboard user’s pleasure, Tab Launcher is more point and click oriented, but more visually obvious and customizable. In fact, it’s the customization options which make it a good Dock replacement as opposed to an add-on. I just set the Dock to disappear from the screen, then use the tabs in Tab Launcher to organize how and where I want the app icons to be located. After that, muscle memory takes over.
Regardless, I won’t complain about the Dock because everyone knows how to use it within minutes, but it has limitations. It’s not keyboard centric, and the more apps you have, the more difficult it is to find them thanks to shrinking icons.