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Four ways to make the Dock more powerful

Kirk McElhearn, | June 7, 2011
Quickly access files and folders with this overlooked OS X tool

Right now, the Dock is probably sitting at the bottom of your screen, showing you applications, a couple of folders, and your Mac’s trusty Trash. (Then again, it may be hidden, or stretch along the side of your screen; see this article to learn how to customize the Dock.) Most Mac users know the basics of using this OS X tool, but what you may not realize is that the Dock offers powerful and convenient ways to access the files and folders you work with most often.

1. Add often-used folders and files to the Dock

Start by adding folders you use often to the Dock. If you’ve kept the Dock’s default setup, you’ll see three folders in its right-hand section: your Applications, Documents, and Downloads folder. Apple put them in such a prominent position to save you time. Still, you may not want to have all three of them there.

Dock access
Files and folders sit on the right side of the Dock, next to the Trash. Customize this area to get easy access to the files and folders you're currently using the most. When you're done with something, just drag it off the Dock.

For example, if the icons for the applications you use most are in the Dock, you could remove the Applications folder. (Just click on the folder’s icon and drag it from the Dock.) Instead, you may want to add your Pictures folder, or your Movies folder, or some sub-folder in your Documents folder, such as a hot project. To do this, just drag the folder onto the Dock to the right of the dashed-line divider. Drop it where you want it to sit. (The actual folder will not move—the Dock stores a pointer to it.)

If there are specific files you want to add to the Dock, you can do this to; just drag them to the Dock as you do folders. Be careful though: if you add too many items to the Dock, it will shrink to fit them all on your screen, and the icons will get tiny. (You can go to the Dock preferences in System Preferences and turn on Magnification, but this only helps when you hover your pointer over icons.)

2. Make it easier to tell folders from one another

Folders are nice, but if you have a bunch of them in your Dock it can be hard to see at a glance which is which. After you’ve put a folder in the Dock, hold down the Control key (or press your right mouse button, or use a trackpad’s secondary click gesture), and click on the folder to show a settings menu. These settings affect how the folder is displayed. Choose Show As Stack and instead of an icon you’ll see the first item in the folder, with the edges of others behind it.


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