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This chapter is from the book

Customizing the Dock

After the initial "gee whiz, that's pretty" reaction to the Dock wears off, you'll probably want to customize the Dock to better suit your Finder settings. Depending on your screen size, you might be looking at a Dock that, by default, eats up about one third of the available desktop space on your machine. Don't worry, there are ways to rectify the situation.

Instant Resizing

The easiest and fastest way to resize the Dock is to click and hold on the divider line that separates the right and left sides of the Dock. With your mouse held down, drag up and down. The Dock will dynamically resize as you move your mouse. Let go of the mouse button when the Dock has reached the size you want.


As the Dock grows or shrinks, the icons will change size with it and the divider line will shift to the left or right as needed. After the resize has started, you do not need to keep your mouse cursor centered over the divider line—the resize will continue until the mouse button is released, regardless of your pointer position.

After playing with different Dock sizes, you might notice that some sizes look better than others. This is because Mac OS X must interpolate between several different native icon graphics in order to scale the images. To choose only native icon sizes, hold down the Option key while using the separator bar to resize.

Dock: System Preferences Panel

For more fine-tuning of the Dock, you must turn to the System Preferences application. The Dock has a settings panel within System Preferences that you can use to adjust its size, its icon magnification, and make it disappear when not in use. Users of Apple's Titanium PowerBooks or Cinema-aspect displays, such as the 17" iMac, will be pleased to find that the Dock can even move into a vertical mode, occupying space along the sides of the screen.

Open System Preferences, then click the Dock icon within System Preferences. Your screen should now resemble Figure 3.33.

Figure 3.33Figure 3.33 Customize the Dock's appearance from the System Preferences application.

Within this panel, you can choose how you'd like the Dock to look and act on your computer. There are four settings:

  • Dock Size—This sets the size of the Dock icons. Moving this slider from left to right will increase the size of the default Dock icon and is identical to dragging the separator bar that was discussed earlier in "Instant Resizing." Keep in mind that the Dock will not expand beyond the edges of the screen and will shrink automatically to make room for additional icons.

  • Magnification—If you activate Dock magnification by clicking the check box, the Dock icons will automatically scale as you move your cursor over them. You can use the magnification slider to adjust the maximum size that a magnified icon will take. Although this is useful if you have an extremely small Dock, its main purpose seems to be eye candy. If you haven't seen this effect demonstrated, turn it on—you're in for a treat.

  • Position on Screen—Use these radio buttons (Left, Bottom, Right) to control where the Dock will appear on your Desktop. The default position is at the bottom of the screen, but many users may find that a vertical orientation (left or right) is more useful and appealing.

  • Minimize Using—Audiences were wowed when they first saw the Dock's Genie effect for minimizing windows. Although nifty, it isn't exactly the fastest thing on the planet. In Mac OS X 10.1, Apple included a second minimization effect: Scale. This effect is much less dramatic, but also much faster. Use the Minimize Using pop-up menu to choose your minimization style.

  • Animate Opening Applications—By default, when an application is starting, the Dock will bounce the application's icon up and down. This provides visual feedback that the system hasn't stalled. Shutting off this feature might result in a small speed increase, but is likely to be a bit frustrating when you can no longer tell whether the system is starting the application you selected.

  • Automatically Hide and Show the Dock—If this check box is set, the Dock will automatically disappear when you move your mouse out of it. To make the Dock reappear, just move your cursor to the bottom of the screen—it will grow back into the original position. You can toggle this at any time from the Finder by pressing Option+Command+D.

When you've completed your Dock configuration, choose Quit (Command+Q) from the System Preferences application menu.


Unlike control panels in Mac OS 8/9, the system preferences do not automatically quit if you close their window. To Quit, choose Quit (Command+Q) from the application menu.

Easy access to several of the Dock's configuration options is also available through the Dock submenu in the Apple menu.

How Can I Configure Dock Sounds?

What you're hearing when the Dock makes a "poof" are the Mac OS X interface sounds, which can be turned on from the Sound Preference panel. The individual sound files are located at /System/Library/Components/CoreAudio.component/Contents/Resources/SystemSounds, and can be replaced (at your own risk) with customized sound files.

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