What is the Dock?

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After you run Setup Assistant the first time you boot your Mac, the Mac OS X Desktop is launched.  You'll immediately see a transparent strip of icons located at the bottom of the screen , this area is called the Dock.

The Dock is a key feature of the Aqua GUI.  Apple designed the Dock to provide an easy way for the user to view, launch, and manage applications.  The Dock can also be used to display folders, files, minimized windows and shortcuts.

Apple introduced a new look to the Dock in Mac OS X Leopard:

The following is a view of the Dock in Mac OS X Tiger:

The Dock is divided into two unequal halves, partitioned by a bar known as the divider. The left side is for application icons whereas the right side holds the Trash icon and other items such as folders and documents.

The Dock gives you quick and easy access to your most commonly used applications , files, destinations, and whatever you want to access with a single click of the mouse. If you're not comfortable with the Dock on the bottom, you can configure its location to the left or right side of the screen. You can adjust the size, its scrolling behavior and it can also be set to hide automatically when it's not in use.

You activate an item from the Dock by simply clicking on its icon; the icon pops up out of the Dock and Mac OS X will launch the application.  Apple provides you with a pre-configured Dock that has icons for the most commonly used applications that come preinstalled with the system such as:

You can customize the Dock to meet your unique application and computing needs. You can add and remove any icon by simply dragging the icon into or out of the Dock. Note that adding or removing an icon into or out of the Dock does not physically move it on the hard drive,  he item remains in its original location.   You've just added or removed a link in the Dock to the item. The Dock icons are simply shortcuts that allow you to easily access and launch applications with a single click without having to spend time navigating to the Mac OS X Applications folder.

A small bluish-white dot (black triangle in Tiger) below an application's icon indicates that it is currently running. Multiple applications can run at the same time on Mac OS X.  If numerous applications are active, you'll observe several bluish-white dots, one underneath each running application's icon.

To view the name of a Dock icon such as an Application, place the mouse cursor over it but don't click.  Mac OS X will then display the name of the Application above the icon as shown in the image on the left.


  • February 27, 2009 - corrections, content revision
  • July 13, 2008 - corrections, content revision and modification, added Leopard Dock image
Created: 10:47 PM on Dec 24, 2006
By: switchtoamac