A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Dock

The Dock is one of the primary elements of the macOS user interface. You can use it to launch apps. You can customize which apps appear in the Dock and in what order the appear. You can also play files and folders on the right side of the Dock. You've got several preferences you can set to change the Dock's appearance.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Dock.

One of the most prominent features on your Mac screen is the Dock. That's this horizontal list of icons here at the bottom. Now the Dock has lots of features and options and things. But let's just focus on the basics.

You have two sections to the Dock and they are divided by this line here. The left side has a whole bunch of icons that represent apps. You can launch an app by simply clicking on it in the Dock. So, for instance, if I wanted to launch the Reminders app I could just click Reminders and Reminders launches. You can see there it is. I can launch any app I want just by clicking on it. So it's an app launcher.

You can add your own apps here pretty easily as well. So, in the Finder I'm going to go to New Finder Window and I'm going to go to the Applications folder. Here are all of my Applications. So I'm going to select something that I want to add to the Dock that may not otherwise be there. So, for instance, if I wanted to add the Calculator app, I would find it here in the folder and I would drag it down into the Dock and put it anywhere I want. I creates little spaces as I move and drop it in there. Now the app itself is still in the Applications folder but there is a shortcut to it here in the Dock. So when people say something's in the Dock, nothing is in the Dock. It's just shortcuts or aliases to the applications which are in the Applications folder.

So I can launch Calculator now and get to it right from the Dock. If I want to get rid of something from the Dock I can simply drag it up and I have to drag it to the top half of the screen. You can see it says remove and I release and it's gone. I can also drag items left and right. So I can arrange these anyway I want. So I can create my own set of apps that I want to access easily from the Dock. Down here get rid of ones I don't want. Add new ones. Rearrange them so I can customize this to fit my needs.

You can also drag and drop files into the Dock. So, for instance, if I were to look in this folder here there's a text file. If I double click it, it opens up in TextEdit. But say I want it to open up in Pages because Pages can handle text documents as well. I can drag it from the Finder to the Dock. You can see any app that can handle a text document will allow me to drop it on it. But Pages is what I want to use so it will open up that document now in Pages. So you can use it to drag and drop to open up a document in a specific app.

For the items on the right side of the screen you can see how it kind of springs up here to show me what's in the Downloads folder or say if I have a another folder, my own folder there, you can see it springs up there and shows me a bunch of stuff.

I can actually change how that works by Control clicking here and I can select either Fan View, Grid View, List View, or automatically choose one of these three. So, for instance, the List View puts it up as a list like this. The Grid View puts it up as a grid of files like that. So you can change those and even also change how it's displayed. So it's a stack of folders there or a folder itself since that's what it is. You can change how the order is in any of these viewed things here. So you can do a List and you can say Sorted by Date Added and it comes up in date added view.

You can also add specific documents here. So say if I am working on this daily journal everyday I can add it down here and now to launch TextEdit to edit this document I can actually just click on it there and it launches TextEdit.

Notice too that there are dots under some of these items here. So under Numbers, Numbers is running right now so there is a dot under it. These apps are also running. So notice when an app is running but it hasn't been added to the Dock, it appears there in the Dock. So TextEdit, if I were to quit it, you can see it doesn't exist in the Dock. But if I were to run TextEdit it appears and it's added to the right. If I want it to stay in the Dock all I need to do is drag it from the right, this side here, and drag it over to the left. Put it somewhere in here, I'll put it next to Pages, and now when I quit TextEdit it stays there. There's no dot under it because it's not running anymore but it doesn't go away when I quit the app.

So you can almost say that the left side is divided into two sections. Apps that are permanently there and then things added to the right are added when they're running and disappear when they're not.

Finally you've got some settings in System Preferences. Go to System Preferences, Dock. You've got a whole bunch of settings of the size of the icons, the magnification. Turn that on and you can see the Dock enlarges the icons as you roll over them. You can set a bunch of different options. You can play around and see which ones you prefer.

Comments: 2 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Dock”

    Nancy Pietraszkiewicz
    2 years ago

    I found this very informative. I couldn’t figure how to add or subtract from the dock, now i know. thanks

    Robert Poland
    2 years ago

    On my Dock I created a folder named iWork And then placed aliases for Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
    I also have folders for the iLife and Microsoft families.
    This cleans up the Dock for me.

Comments Closed.