The 7 Simple & Great Tricks to Tweak Your Dock on Mac OS X

Jeffry Thurana 02-08-2009

00_dock_imageJust like the Start Menu for Windows, Dock is one of the characteristics of Mac OS X. While every Mac user knows and uses Dock, describing it might be a bit difficult.


So here’s the definition of the Dock according to Apple’s Dictionary:

An application launcher that comes with Mac OS X. The Dock is located along the edge of the screen. It contains icons for many of the applications available on the computer, and you can drag icons to and from the Dock. The Dock shows that an application is running by displaying a small black triangle below or next to its icon.

Most Mac users just accept the Dock as it is. But maybe they shouldn’t. There are many ways to tweak the Dock, and here are several of them.

Part One: On The Dock

First, we’ll start from the obvious: the Dock itself.

1. Resizing the Dock


You can easily resize the dock by hovering your mouse on the dock, click on the dividing line, then drag up or down to adjust the size. If you just click and hold, the magnification effect will be off temporarily until you release the click.


2. Right click options

If you do right click (or Control + Click) on the dividing line, a pop up menu with several options will appear. Among them is changing the location of the dock.



If you choose to open the Dock Preferences, you’ll get more or less the same options with the right click.


But if you right click or click and hold on one of the application icons, you’ll get options for that application instead.



3. Removing icons

You can just drag out an inactive application’s icon from the dock to remove them.



Part Two: Inside The Terminal

Now we’ll move onto the real stuff. If anyone wants to do serious tweaking on Mac OS X, there’s no better (and scarier) way to do it than using command lines on the Terminal.

4. Add Spaces between icons

Except for the two icons beside the dividing line, all icons in the Dock are located next to one another without too much space.


Using Terminal’s command lines, you can add a separator in the form of blank space between icons to group them. Write (or copy and paste) this command to Terminal:

defaults write persistent-apps -array-add ‘{ “tile-type” = “spacer-tile”; }’

Hit Enter/Return, then write:

killall Dock

Hit Enter/Return one more time and the Dock will be restarted and missing for a few (milli)seconds. After the Dock return, you’ll find a blank space in the Dock. Drag this space to the location that you want.


Repeat the process to add another blank space.

To remove the blank space, simply drag out the space from the dock. Alternatively, you can right click or click and hold the space and a pop up menu will appear saying “Remove from Dock”. Click on that command to remove the space.


5. Show only the active applications

Sometimes you feel that the Dock contains too many items. You can reduce the crowds by making the Dock shows only icons from the active applications. Use this command line in Terminal:

defaults write static-only -bool TRUE

Hit Enter/Return, then write:

killall Dock

Hit Enter/Return one more time to restart the Dock.


To reverse the process, change the “TRUE” into “FALSE” (sans quote).

Part Three: Other Terminal Commands

We are still discussing Terminal commands to tweak the dock. Since the general process is the same, I’d like to simplify the explanation by only mentioning the command lines.

Please remember to always hit Enter/Return after each command line, continued by “killall Dock” command and another hit at Enter/Return key to restart the Dock to enable the change.

6. Flattening the Dock

You can change the appearance of the Dock to the flat 2D view like the older version of Mac OS X by using this command:

defaults write no-glass -boolean YES

To reverse, change the YES into NO.


7. Make the hidden applications transparent

Sometimes Mac users hide some of the open applications (by using Hide menu or Command + H). This process could be enhanced by making the hidden applications icons in the dock transparent. Use this command to activate this effect.

defaults write showhidden -bool YES

Replace YES with NO to reverse the effect.


Do you know any other tweaks for Dock? Please share them using the comments below.

Related topics: Application Dock, Start Menu.

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  1. Max Glenister
    August 3, 2009 at 5:08 am

    A couple of other useful tips:

    Adding an 'Applications' stack to the dock - just drag your Applications folder to the dock and it will make a stack, if you right-click the new icon on your dock you can change it from a 'grid' type popup to a 'list', which then makes it somewhat akin to the Start Menu on Windows operating systems.

    Better simple dock - if you don't want the reflective Leopard dock and you're not too keen on how the simple dock looks, there are alternatives. One of my favourites to use is "Mirage dock". Mirage dock removes all of the background images of the dock, leaving you with just icons and indicators. It means that your dock can look great with any background.

    You can get the installer/uninstaller package for Mirage dock at this page. - The preview on the site doesn't do it enough justice, it really is great.

    • Ellie Harrison
      August 3, 2009 at 5:52 am

      I agree with Max. I added an Applications stack to the dock, as well as folder shortcuts for my Downloads folder and other frequently used folders.

      I also organize my icons by type in the Dock.