PCs

Five cool Windows 7 docks to sharpen up your desktop

Enhance the functionality and convenience of your Windows 7 desktop and add some visual pizzazz with these easy-to-use docks.

I'm a big fan of the dock. Be it on the Linux or the Mac desktop - the dock always makes the desktop look cleaner and programs more easily accessed. So I set out to find five good docks for the Windows 7 environment. Each of these docks is still under development and offers a clean style and easy configuration. All five of these docks offer a free version and some have added features offered in a paid-for release. No matter which version you go with, they will all do just what you need -- extend your desktop's functionality.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: ObjectDock

ObjectDock (Figure A) is one of the more feature-rich of the available docks. With a free and a paid version, ObjectDock automatically imports quick launch, has special effects, offers applets, any-edge positioning, and auto-hide, lets you minimize windows to dock with live animation, and much more. The paid version ($19.95) adds better organization, easier app switching, and dock tabs, among other features.

Figure A

ObjectDock

2: XWindows Dock

XWindows Dock (Figure B) is a fairly straightforward dock that offers less in the way of thrills and more in the way of simplicity. With XWindows Dock you just drag any icon from the desktop onto the dock and voila! -- instant launcher. This dock is still in beta, so features like plug-ins aren't exactly there yet (although they have the groundwork for them). XWindows Dock does contain two nice plug-ins -- the stack container (quick navigation through folders) and a Gmail mail checker.

Figure B

XWindows Dock

3: SliderDock

SliderDock (Figure C) is unique in the dock apps in that it's more a psuedo 3D ring dock than a static dock that sits at the bottom or top of your desktop. You can add as many icons to SliderDock as you like and then scroll the ring around with your mouse wheel to find the icon you want to launch. SliderDock is highly customizable and easy to use -- just have a clean desktop before you try to use it; otherwise, your myriad icons will make the application launchers on Slider impossible to see.

Figure C

SliderDock

4: RocketDock

RocketDock (Figure D) is one of my favorite docks. It's highly customizable (and skinnable), and it offers smooth animations, alpha blending, an easy drag-and-drop interface, real-time windows previews, positioning and layering options, the best documentation of all the docks listed, and solid customizations for each item added to the dock. RocketDock also offers taskbar support, so all minimized applications will appear as icons (a la Mac Dock). RocketDock is free and has a fairly nice listing of add-ons.

Figure D

RocketDock

5: Nexus

Nexus (Figure E) comes the closest to resembling (and behaving) like the Mac OS X dock. There are two versions: Free and Ultimate. The Ultimate edition ($24.95), in my opinion, is really worth the coin. Offering unlimited docks, subdocks, tabs, and more, Nexus Ultimate does an outstanding job of extending your desktop far beyond anything the standard Windows 7 interface can offer. Both the Free and the Ultimate versions are the only docks to also include system tray support and multiple mouse-over effects. Of the five docks here, Nexus is by far the most powerful you will try.

Figure E

Nexus

Solid options

The desktop dock may not be for everyone. But if you're looking for an easy way to extend the functionality of your desktop and give it a little pizzazz at the same time, one of these docks should suit your needs perfectly. They are all incredibly simple to use, consume very little resources, and are stable enough for production-use machines.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

17 comments
t_loud
t_loud

My favorite dock is Rocketdock. I tend to stay away from Stardock stuff as they are always trying to get me to buy something. My favorite new app is Splinter, but I still use Rocketdock until I totally figure Splinter out.

Michael.Stanley
Michael.Stanley

Someone asked if the windows 7 taskbar is essentially a dock. The answer is yes, but it doesn't have the features I need in a dock.

doveman
doveman

Xwindows Dock - Last updated 11/15/2010 RocketDock - Doesn't support Win7 x64 About as useful as the recent article on Shell replacements!

Dreigo42
Dreigo42

Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the Windows 7 Taskbar essentially function as a dock? I just pin what I would put in a dock on the task bar and a single click is all it takes. I will admit that sliderdock looks really neat.

DSchr
DSchr

I don't see the need for any of these application launchers with Windows 7. I simply click the Start Orb (button), type in 2-3, maybe 4, letters of the name of the program, and press Enter. Voila! What could be easier? Why mess around with "docks"?

hnhmailbox-tr
hnhmailbox-tr

It only supports the 32-bit versions of XP/Vista/Win7.

cbgeorge
cbgeorge

@metalfr0 I've been using DELL dock for quite a while and like it so I thought I'd install it on my new HP, but the installer says it only works on DELL machines and exits. How do you get it to work on anything other than DELL?

cbgeorge
cbgeorge

RocketDock's website mentions that it will not work with 64 bit versions of Windows (XP, Vista or 7)

kf.gutta
kf.gutta

i have still been using MsOffice.exe and its component files successfully in Win 7 (available in Win 3.1 version) for all my requirements. 1.Be it special exe files or doc files 2 Favourites saved on Internet Explorer 3 Or any folder appearing as a Toolbar. Thank you anyway for the wonderful Five docks listed above. i may switch over to Nexus soon. Kaizad F. Gutta kaizad

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What features? I still don't get what I'm missing.

mcalpinem
mcalpinem

You might try looking at some of the other comments about RocketDock.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Like you, I pin my most frequently used programs on the Taskbar (or Start Menu). I could possibly see the value of a dock on a XP machine (possibly), but I don't get it on W7. There's nothing wrong with a little eye-candy if that's your desired configuration, but I'm not seeing the functional value.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

I use Rocket Dock in XP with a few plugins that make it behave a bit more like the Mac. For me, it's easier (and more fun) than simply using the start menu or the Quick Launch bar. Of course, I still do go to Start > Run when I just want to type in the name of a program to launch, but I would do that anyway, with or without the dock.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I have used it on 64 bit installs of both Vista and 7 and it works just fine in my experience. It is not officially supported but that does not mean that it does not work.

keithc
keithc

not giving me any problems, despite saying it is not supported.

galliodo
galliodo

I use RocketDock on my Windows 7 64 bit & it works fine.