Software

How to customize the macOS Dock to your preferences

Although macOS System Preferences permit adjusting a variety of settings, no other customization may prove as helpful as adjusting the macOS Dock due to its frequent everyday use. Here's how.

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Image: Apple Inc.

Most Mac users know how to move the macOS Dock to the side or set the Dock to automatically hide. There are a number of other settings that enhance everyday use yet are often overlooked.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

To access Dock preferences, click System Preferences from the Dock, or if the app isn't present, open Finder, navigate to the Applications directory and double-click System Preferences, and then click Dock. The Dock preferences will appear; these preferences go well beyond simply hiding the dock or changing its location—that said, performing those two tasks is simple.

Click the Left, Bottom, or Right radio button within the Position On Screen section to specify the Dock location (Figure A). Check the Automatically Hide And Show The Dock to enable the Dock to automatically hide itself when the Dock is not needed onscreen.

Figure A

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Another common Dock adjustment is changing the Dock's size. Simply move the Size slider bar to adjust the Dock's onscreen footprint.

You can check the Magnification box, too, and move the corresponding Magnification slider bar to adjust how large the Dock icons appear when the cursor is placed over them. I used to think of this feature as superfluous, but I've come to find it particularly helpful on 13" Macs when numerous applications are present in the Dock.

SEE: Five ways to make macOS more efficient on the go (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you economize movement and regularly use shortcuts, such as pressing Command and Tab simultaneously to switch between active applications, you'll want to pay attention to the Prefer tabs when opening documents drop-down menu, which permits specifying how documents should open. The three choices are Always, In Full Screen Only, or Manual.

  • Always instructs macOS to open documents in a tab instead of within a new window.
  • In Full Screen Only instructs macOS to only open documents in a tab when you are working within full screen mode.
  • Manual instructs macOS to only open documents in a tab when you manually open a document in a tab.

The Double-click A Window's Title Bar To Zoom/Minimize drop-down box permits specifying whether double-clicking an application's title bar should prompt the window to become larger or minimize itself. If you regularly work with numerous windows, and if you wish to more readily dismiss open windows, opt for the Minimize option.

If you wish to minimize windows to their Dock application icon, check the Minimize Windows Into Application Icon box. I find it easier to move between active applications by clearing that icon, which subsequently places a preview of the open app in a minimized state in the Dock.

SEE: Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide (ZDNet special feature)

The remaining Dock settings are largely eye candy. Minimize Windows Using Genie Effect/Scale Effect merely impacts how windows visually behave when minimizing them, while the Animate Opening Applications check box serves only to make an application icon bounce when you open the program.

The last option, Show Indicators For Open Applications, places a black dot below an active Dock application's icon. Seemingly insignificant, that little black dot has often helped me determine that an application failed to shut down properly or is frozen, so I recommend enabling the option within the Dock preferences.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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