Archived - About the Dock (Mac OS X)

The Dock provides a convenient location for opening items that you use frequently, for accessing contextual menus, for creating hierarchical menus, and for storing minimized windows. This document explains these features.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Tip: Some of this information applies to Mac OS X 10.1 or later only.

Contents of this document

I. What's in the Dock?
II. About the Dock separator, types of items in the Dock
III. Adding an item to the Dock
IV. The Dock organizes items but does not store them
V. About the Trash
VI. How to open an item in the Dock
VII. How to locate an item that appears in the Dock
VIII. Rearrange items in the Dock
IX. How to Remove an item from the Dock
X. Change the Dock position (bottom, left, right)
XI. How to Change Dock settings, preferences
XII. Bouncing icon in the Dock
XIII. Using hierarchical menus
XIV. Additional Dock features
XV. Troubleshooting the Dock

I. What's in the Dock?

This section lists the contents of the Dock when you first install Mac OS X or create a new user. The items are listed in the order that they appear, from left to right. Clicking any of these items opens it, or brings it to the foreground if already open.

Default contents of the Dock

    1. Finder
    2. Mail - see Note 1.
    3. Microsoft Internet Explorer
    4. iTunes
    5. iMovie
    6. Sherlock
    7. QuickTime Player
    8. System Preferences
    9. Dock Separator - see Note 2.
    10. URL icon - see Note 3.
    11. Trash


    1. If a number appears on this icon after setting up and using Mail, it is the number of unread messages that you have.

    2. This is the white line between System Preferences and the URL icon in Figure 1.

    3. This URL goes to the Mac OS X product page, but you can add your own using the steps in "Mac OS X: How to Add the "Springing" URL Icon to the Dock".

    4. This document describes versions of Mac OS X 10.1 (such as 10.1.2). If you are using any version of Mac OS X 10.0 (such as 10.0.4), you may see an additional type of Dock item called a "Dock Extra". A Dock Extra gives you control over a setting such as AirPort connection or system volume. These have been replaced by menu bar items in Mac OS X 10.1.

II. About the Dock separator, types of items in the Dock

The Dock separator is the white line that appears between the URL icon and the System Preferences icon (Figure 2). Applications always appear to the left of (or above) the separator. Files and folders go on the right side (or below) the separator.

You can add almost any file, folder, or application to the Dock. Minimized windows appear in the Dock (Figure 2), instead of remaining on the desktop as they did in Mac OS 9. You may be familiar with the term "windowshade" or "collapse" for referring to this feature in Mac OS 9 and earlier. A window is "minimized" when you click the yellow button in its top left corner.

Figure 2 Minimized Finder window in the Dock

III. Adding an item to the Dock

To add an item to the Dock, just drag it to the correct side of the Dock. Applications go to the left of the separator, or above when the Dock is vertically oriented. Files and folders go to the right, or below. When you drag a new item into the Dock, other items move towards the ends, creating a place for it. If you drag the item to the wrong side of the separator, the Dock does not accept it.

To add an open application to the Dock which is not already stored there, you may select Keep In Dock from the pop-up contextual menu. Use of contextual menus in the Dock is discussed more in technical document 106743, "Mac OS X: Additional Features of the Dock".

IV. The Dock organizes items but does not store them

Warning: When you add an item to the Dock, always remember that the original item is still stored in its original location. The Dock does not store a full copy of the original item, only a short cut to it. For example: If you drag a document from your desktop into the Dock and then delete the original document, you lose the contents of the document. If you want to get the document off the desktop after putting it in the Dock, place it in your Documents folder instead.

V. About the Trash

Drag items you want to delete to the Trash. You also drag disks or server volumes here to eject them. A button appears in place of the Trash when you drag a disk to it. Files remain in the Trash until you delete them by choosing Empty Trash from the Finder application menu.

VI. How to open an item in the Dock

To open an item in the Dock, simply click it once. If the item is already open, it comes to the foreground. Clicking the Finder icon, for example, opens a new Finder window when one is not already open. Clicking on Items 2 through 8, as listed above, opens the applications of the same name.

VII. How to locate an item that appears in the Dock

See technical document 61338, "Mac OS X: How to Locate an Item that Appears in the Dock".

VIII. Rearrange items in the Dock

You can change the order of items in the Dock simply by dragging them left and right, or up and down. You must keep items on the correct side of the Dock separator.

IX. How to remove an item from the Dock

Drag the item from the Dock onto the desktop. It disappears in a puff of smoke. The original item remains in its original location.

X. Change the Dock position (bottom, left, right)

The Dock appears on bottom of the screen by default, but you can choose to have it appear on the left or right. To do that, open System Preferences, choose Dock from the View menu, then click an option for "Position on screen." You may also change the Dock's position by control-clicking the Dock separator. In the contextual menu that appears, choose the desired position from the Position submenu.

XI. How to change Dock settings, preferences

Choose from the Apple menu, then make changes in the submenu. Alternatively, you may Control-click the Dock separator to access the same commands. Choose Dock Preferences from either menu to access the Dock pane of System Preferences. This preference pane gives you access to settings that are not available in the Dock contextual menu.

XII. Bouncing icon in the Dock

An application's icon may bounce in the Dock to request your attention.

XIII. Using hierarchical menus

You may find this feature useful if you used the Apple menu in Mac OS 9 to create customized hierarchical menus. See technical document 106203, "Mac OS X: How to Use Pop-Up, Hierarchical Menus in the Dock".

XIV. Additional Dock features

For more dock features, including keyboard shortcuts, application switching, and application hiding, see technical document 106743, "Mac OS X: Additional Features of the Dock".

XV. Troubleshooting the Dock

These documents may help you with common Dock troubleshooting questions:

106204: "Mac OS X 10.0: Generic Folders Appear in the Dock and Applications Folder"
106469: "Mac OS X 10.1: Question Mark Appears in the Dock"
106207: "Mac OS X 10.0: Submenus Not Provided for Folder Aliases in the Dock"
106491: "Mac OS X 10.1: AirPort Control Strip, Dock Extra Replaced by Menu Bar Item"

Last Modified: Nov 7, 2011
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