Is the OS X dock badly designed?

macOS: Customize desktop, dock, menu

Thomas crossbows

The Finder and the Dock are the central contact points for managing files and programs. They are started automatically by the system and always remain active.

After logging in, the Finder starts automatically with the desktop and the menu at the top of the screen, as well as the dock, which is placed at the bottom of the display by default. Both always remain active and cannot be ended. In some cases, the user can also determine how the desk, menu and dock look like.

The appearance

The writing background

The desk

The stacks

The dock

Adjust the dock

Folder in the dock

The menu bar

The appearance

In the "General" system setting, you can choose between a light and dark appearance or activate the automatic function. Then the appearance changes between light and dark depending on the time of day. The appearance determines the appearance of the menu and the dock as well as that of all windows that you open in the Finder. If applications are programmed accordingly, they also use the preset appearance. If the dark appearance is selected, you can switch off the dark background for the content area in Mail and Notes in the settings, which improves readability. In Maps and TextEdit, the content area can be changed to light using the "Display" menu when the dark appearance is activated.

EnlargeIn the "General" system setting, you can choose between the light and dark appearance and define the accent color.

In the “General” system setting, you can also define an accent color for operating elements such as checkboxes, selection buttons, buttons, drop-down menus and selected elements in the menus. If you choose “graphite”, the color you choose also affects the three normally colored buttons in the top left of the windows. The selection color for activated texts also depends on this setting, but can also be set independently of the accent color.

EnlargeIf the dark mode is selected, the content can also be displayed in a bright light on the maps.

The desk background

Which motif the desktop background shows is determined in the system setting "Desktop & Screensaver" under "Desktop". On the left in the window you have access to the motifs and colors supplied by Apple, the system photo library of photos and the “Pictures” directory in your own private folder. You can also select any other folder with a click on the plus symbol. After selecting a category or a folder, mark the desired motif in the window on the right. It then appears as the desktop background. There are also three motifs under “Dynamic Desk” that change with the time of day. In the case of images from photos or from a folder, a drop-down menu for positioning is also displayed in the window. If you select “full screen”, images are proportionally adapted to the screen dimensions and protruding areas are cut off. With "Enlarge to fill the screen" the image is brought to the size of the monitor and, if necessary, distorted, and with "Fit to screen" it is adjusted to the screen in one direction, while an edge remains in the other. The option "Centered" places an image in its original size in the center of the monitor.

EnlargeThere are three dynamic motifs for the desktop background that change with the time of day

If a single picture is too boring for you, mark “Change picture” at the bottom of the window and set a time period. Then all the images contained in the folder marked on the left are displayed one after the other. Alternatively, the change of scenery can also be carried out when logging in or when exiting the idle state. With "Random order" the system determines the order of the images itself.

If you select an image in the Finder and call up the context menu with a secondary click (right mouse button), the last entry to be found is “Set as desktop background”. So you can quickly turn any image into the background without opening the system settings.

EnlargeThere are different animations for the screensaver, for the motifs you can select any folder with images.

The screen saver can be switched on in the second section of the system settings for work breaks. Among other things, you have the choice between different animations, for which you select the images to be used via "Source", as well as some standard animations such as Arabesque, Vortex and Shell. As a source for the animations, you can either choose between the standard collections “Flowers”, “Landscapes”, “Colors”, “Sierras” and “Catalina” or access images in photos or in any folder. To assess the selected animation, move the mouse pointer over the image on the right in the window and click on "Preview". The preview is ended with the esc key. When the screen saver should go into action, you can use the drop-down menu in the lower left corner of the window. If the Mac goes to sleep before the period set here, the screen saver will not be activated.

The desk

After reinstalling the system and on a new Mac, nothing can be seen on the desktop except for the background image and the dock. In principle, the desktop is nothing more than a folder that belongs to a user's private folder, just like the “Documents”, “Pictures” or “Downloads” directories. If several users are set up, each user has his own desk. Folders and files that he stores there only appear on the desk when he has logged on to the computer.

EnlargeWhether internal and external data carriers should be displayed on the desktop or not, is determined in the settings of the Finder.

In addition to the icons of the files and folders stored on the desktop, icons for the internal data storage device, for external drives connected to the Mac including CDs / DVDs and for data storage devices and servers in the network can be displayed there. The options responsible for this can be found in the Finder's settings under "General". With a double click on the symbols you can then access the content of the medium. If you have switched off the display of these objects on the desktop, you can access them via the sidebar of the Finder window.

EnlargeIf you activate the grid, the symbols on the desk can be aligned with it.

How the symbols should be arranged on the desk is determined by the display options. You can call it up via “Show display options” in the “Display” menu and in the desktop context menu as well as with the key combination Command (⌘) -J. If “Align to grid” is set in the drop-down menu for “Sort by”, the symbols are automatically aligned to a grid when they are placed on the desk or moved. In addition, the symbols can be automatically aligned with the activated grid when you call up "View> Clean up" in the menu.

The grid spacing of the grid and the size of the symbols are set using the two sliders. In addition, you can automatically arrange the objects by name, type, three date options, size or day on the desk on the right-hand side of the desk or switch off the alignment with "None". If "Show symbol preview" is activated, which is the case by default, the symbols show the content of the document in a reduced format instead of just a general symbol for the respective file type. In addition, you can specify how large the font should be for the designations and whether they are below or to the right of the symbols. If "Show object info" is activated, the labels on the data carriers show the capacity and the available storage space. To see all information, move the mouse pointer over the text. In the case of folders, the number of objects contained appears, and in the case of images, the image size in pixels.

The stacks

If you put a lot of objects on the desk, it gets a bit confusing at some point. You can therefore have all objects on the desk automatically grouped into stacks according to certain criteria. The “Use Batch” command can be found in the desktop context menu and in the “View” menu. As soon as you have activated the command, all files and folders are stacked on the right edge of the screen. The criterion according to which this takes place is determined via "Group stacks by" also in the context menu or in the "Display" menu. You can choose between type, four date options and the tags. Alternatively, stacking can be set in the "Display Options" window in the top drop-down menu. New files saved on the desktop are automatically added to the batches, or the Finder creates a new batch if necessary. In order for folders stored on the desktop to appear above the stack, select the option “Show folder at top> On desktop” in the Finder's settings under “Advanced”.

EnlargeWith a single command, the documents stored on the desk can be ...
Enlarge... put them neatly in stacks.

To show the objects stored in a stack, click on it. Another click on the stack symbol with the triangle pointing down closes the stack. To open all stacks at once, hold down the Option (⌥) key and click on a stack. A click with the Option (⌥) key pressed on one of the open stacks closes all of them. Using a trackpad, you can scroll through the items in a stack without opening the stack. To do this, move the mouse pointer over the stack and then scroll left or right on the trackpad with two fingers. A double click on the currently displayed document opens it. The documents can be sorted according to various criteria within the stack. By default, they are arranged according to "Added on". Other sorting options can be selected in the context menu on the desktop by additionally pressing the Option (⌥) key. Then the option “Group Batches By” changes to “Sort Batches By”. This setting applies to all batches together.

EnlargeThe criteria according to which the documents are to be stacked can be determined using the context menu on the desk.

The dock

The dock is used, among other things, to start programs and switch between open applications. To do this, click on the corresponding program icon. Only the Finder is always active and can neither be started nor closed. If you click on a program icon in the Dock with the Option (⌥) key pressed, the windows of all other active programs are hidden and the selected program and its windows are activated. Sometimes you have to click a second time to hide all other windows.

EnlargeThe dock shows the three most recently used applications, provided they have not been permanently added to the dock.

Via the context menu of a program icon in the dock (a little longer click on the icon is sufficient) you have access to all windows open in the program and the documents last used with the application after starting the program. In addition, the program can be hidden or closed, and with some applications a new document can also be created. Holding down the Option (⌥) key with the context menu open changes the Hide command to Hide Other to hide the windows of all other active applications, and the Quit command changes to Quit Immediately to force an unresponsive program to give up.

EnlargeThe context menu in the dock gives you access to the windows that are currently open as well as to the documents last used.

In some applications, such as mail and music, there are some program functions in the context menu, for example to write a new e-mail or to switch to the next track or to pause playback, and with the Finder you can open a new window or start a search. The most recently used files appear in the context menu of some applications such as Pages and Numbers, even if they are not started. You can quickly open recently edited documents in the application. The context menu of the system settings offers direct access to every setting, and that of the Launchpad to all applications. And it can be emptied and opened via the context menu of the recycle bin.

EnlargeEach setting can be accessed directly via the context menu of the system settings.

With a newly installed macOS, some programs are already stored in the dock. This includes the Finder, the Launchpad, many of the applications supplied with the system such as Mail, Safari, Contacts and the Calendar, as well as the App Store and the system settings. Any symbol that is not required can be pulled out of the dock with the mouse until the message "Remove" appears. Or you take the command "Options> Remove from Dock" in the context menu of the symbol. Only the icon in the dock is deleted, not the program. There are two exceptions, however: Neither the Finder nor the Recycle Bin icon can be removed from the Dock. To add a program to the dock, drag its icon into the dock with the mouse, to the left of the dividing line. By default, the three most recently used programs are also displayed in the dock, to the right of the permanently installed program icons. However, the dock is so intelligent that it only accepts programs there that are not already permanently stored in the dock.

EnlargeThe last opened folders are listed in the context menu of the Finder and you can also start a search.

To the right of the (first or second) dividing line, you put the folders that you want to access quickly via the dock. As with the programs, you drag them there with the mouse or remove them again. The “Downloads” folder is already available there by default. And the dock takes on another task: If you click on the middle button with the minus symbol in a program window at the top left in the toolbar or use the key combination Command (⌘) -M, the window is closed and reduced to the right of the dock. If you need the window again, click on its icon in the dock.

Adjust the dock

There are a number of settings for the dock. So it can be hidden and shown automatically. It then only appears when the mouse pointer is in the area of ​​the dock. Or you can position it vertically right or left on the monitor instead of at the bottom of the screen. All dock settings can be found in the "Dock" system setting. You can also specify the size of the symbols there and activate the automatic enlargement. If this is activated, the dock shows all symbols that are currently under the mouse pointer enlarged. This is especially helpful if you have stored a lot of symbols in the dock and they are therefore very small.

EnlargeAll settings for the dock are summarized in the "Dock" system setting.

There are further options in the “Dock” system setting. If you select “Store window behind program icon in dock”, the minimized windows are not stored with their own icon in the dock, but are hidden behind the icon of the respective application. The minimized windows can be opened again via the context menu of the application; they are marked there with a hash. The setting for “Effect when dropping” also relates to minimizing the application window.With "double click on title bar" you determine whether a double click in the title bar of a program window brings it to the maximum possible size or stores the window in the dock. If "Show display for open programs" is selected, the dock shows a black point below the symbol of an open application.

EnlargeSome default settings for the dock can also be selected in the dock's context menu.

In addition, the animation of the program icon when starting a program and the display of the three most recently used programs in the dock can be switched on or off in the system settings. Some dock settings such as the position or the magnification can also be made in the dock's context menu. To do this, click on one of the two dividing lines with a secondary click (right mouse button).