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Exploring the Dock in Mac OS X "Tiger"

The Dock is an important part of the OS X interface, and in this chapter you'll learn how to use it to launch applications as well as receive feedback about them as they run. You will also learn how to store files, folders, and document windows in the Dock—and to use the Trash to delete files, folders, and applications you no longer need.
This chapter is from the book

Along one edge of your screen (the bottom, left, or right) is a colorful row of icons known as the Dock. The Dock, shown in its default state in Figure 3.1, acts as a taskbar to show open applications and minimized or reduced versions of a document window. It also offers quick access to favorite applications, shows feedback from open applications, and provides a resting place for the Trash.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 The Dock is useful for organizing your desktop.

Here’s a fast overview of the Dock’s arrangement:

  • Left (or Top) portion—At left (or top) are icons for applications. The ones you’ve opened have a triangle under or next to them.

  • Right (or Bottom) portion—At right (or bottom) are document icons representing the documents you’ve reduced or minimized.

  • Trash—At the extreme right (or bottom) is the Trash, the place to drag files that you want to throw away.

  • Separator bar—The separator bar splits the Dock into the application and file/folder areas.

Applications and the Dock

The left (or top) portion of the Dock contains all docked and currently running applications.

To launch an application whose icon is in the Dock, just click its icon once, and your computer takes it from there. When you launch an application that isn’t in the Dock, its icon then appears in the Dock.

As the application launches, you’ll see the icon bounce. When opened, a small triangle appears with its icon to show that it is running—as you can see with the first icon on the left in Figure 3.1. When you quit or close the application, the triangle disappears. (For applications that haven’t been set to remain in the Dock, the icon also disappears from the Dock.)

To switch between active applications, just click the icon in the Dock that you want to become the active application. You can also switch between open applications by holding down Command-Tab. This moves you through active applications in the Dock in the order in which they appear. When you reach the item you want to bring to the front, release the keys to select it.

Adding and Removing Docked Applications

You can add applications to the left side (or top) of the Dock to create a quick launching point, no matter where the software is located on your hard drive. Dragging an application icon to the Dock adds it to that location in the Dock.

To make an open application a permanent member of the Dock, simply do the following:

  1. Locate the application’s icon if it appears in the Dock. (If it’s not in the Dock, the application isn’t open!)

  2. Click and hold on the icon to pop up a menu, as shown in Figure 3.2.

  3. Choose the option Keep in Dock. (If the application already has a place in the Dock, you won’t be given this option.)

After you’ve placed an application on the Dock, you can launch it by single-clicking the icon.

To remove an application’s icon from the Dock, make sure that the application isn’t running and drag it out of the Dock. It disappears in a puff of smoke (try it and see).

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2 Click and hold on an application’s icon in the dock.

Getting Information from the Dock

In addition to providing easy access to commonly used applications, the Dock also gives you feedback about the functioning of applications through their icons.

The icon of an application that’s opening bounces in the Dock (unless configured not to) and continues bouncing until the software is ready. Also, if an open application needs to get your attention, its icon bounces intermittently until you interact with it.

The Dock also signals which applications are running by displaying a small triangle, or arrow, with their application icons. This is a good way to see which applications are open, even if you’ve hidden them or closed all their windows.

In addition to telling you which applications are open, Dock icons can also give you a convenient way to close applications. Simply click and hold the icon of an open application and choose Quit from the menu that appears.

Dock icons also offer quick access to documents open in an application. For example, when you have multiple Finder windows open, you can view a list of those windows by clicking and holding on the Finder icon in the Dock. From the list, as shown in Figure 3.3, you can easily choose the one you want.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 Click and hold on the Dock icon of an open application for a list of open windows.

Some applications even have customized Dock’s icons to display information about events occurring in the application itself. For example, the Mail program displays the number of unread email messages in a red seal that appears in the icon in the Dock, as shown in Figure 3.4. (Mail is covered in detail in Chapter 17, "Using Mail.")

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 View the Number of Unread Messages on Your Mail Icon in the Dock.

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