Shelve Leopard's Dock shelf

Since Leopard was first publicly demoed back at the 2006 Worldwide Developers Conference, one of the biggest “from what I’ve seen” criticisms has focused on the new look of the Dock. Instead of the two-dimensional, partially-transparent look of previous Mac OS X Docks, Leopard’s launcher adopts a three-dimensional “shelf” appearance—your program, file, and folder icons look as if they’re sitting on a glossy-glass surface, complete with reflections.

It’s not a horrible look—I grew a bit more comfortable with it as I saw it more—but it’s a good example of Eye Candy For The Sake Of Eye Candy. After all, do you really benefit from the fact that the Dock reflects other objects, including windows passing above it?

Along with others, I’ve wondered what was so bad about the look of the Dock in OS X 10.4. More important, there have been legitimate concerns about the new Dock's usability. For example, I find the new indicator for which programs are currently running—a bluish sphere—to be difficult to see. But perhaps the most significant complaint, voiced by people who had actually been using the new Dock, was that when you placed it on the side of your screen, the whole “shelf” metaphor broke down. (See an example on the Rogue Amoeba blog.)

Back while Leopard was still in development, several commenters suggested that Apple should at least alter the new Dock’s appearance when the Dock is on the side of the screen. As it turns out, someone at Apple was apparently listening. In the release version of Leopard, the Dock looks very different when positioned on either side of your screen—in fact, it’s quite Tiger-like, as you can see in the image to the right. (I even prefer the new glowing-white dots to Tiger’s black triangles.)

Of course, now that we know the Dock’s appearance can change in certain circumstances, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to get that same look all the time. Sure enough, as explained in this Mac OS X Hints article, you can do just that with two simple commands in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES
killall Dock

After issuing the second command, your Dock will relaunch sporting the Tiger-like side-position look when it’s at the bottom of your screen:

Leopard Dock modified appearance

(Using the same two commands, but changing the YES to NO , will revert the Dock to its official Leopard appearance.)

For those who aren’t fans of Terminal, or who foresee themselves switching frequently between the two looks—say, tech writers who need to take screenshots with the stock appearance but who prefer the modified one—we’ve whipped up two simple-as-can-be AppleScripts you can download. Unzip the downloaded file and you’ll see two tiny programs, Modified Leopard Dock and Stock Leopard Dock . Run the first and your Dock will relaunch with the modified appearance; run the second to restore your Dock to its original appearance.

Now I’m off to work on that semi-transparent menu bar...

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