Promising Prospect: Quay

Easily the most-criticized aspect of Leopard’s new Stacks feature is the fact that it does away with a popular feature of Tiger’s Dock: the capability to place a folder in the Dock and then access the contents of that folder, and its subfolders, via a hierarchical pop-up menu. Although I’ve covered a few rough substitutes, we’re now seeing third-party programs that attempt to specifically replicate this Tiger feature in Leopard.

One of the best efforts yet is Rainer Brockerhoff’s Quay (€7). Currently in beta, Quay nearly replicates Tiger’s folder-in-Dock functionality, but also adds a few often-requested options.

To get a Tiger-like folder in the Dock, you launch Quay and then follow the onscreen instructions:

  1. Drag a folder to the Quay window.
  2. Drag the folder icon from Quay— not from the Finder—to the right-hand side of the Dock.
  3. There is no step 3.

Quay setup steps

The chosen folder now appears in the Dock, Tiger-style: it takes on the folder’s actual icon, rather than the icon of an item inside, and when you click on the folder—you don’t even have to right-click or Control-click—you get a hierarchical menu of the folder’s contents. You can navigate to any item in any folder, and then click on the item to open it. (Quay works its magic through a hidden process called QuayMenu.) You remove a Quay-created folder from the Dock by dragging it off, just as you would any other item.

Quay menu

But instead of just giving you back hierarchical menus, Quay also provides a number of viewing options that weren’t available in Tiger. My favorite—something I’ve been wanting for years—is the ability to choose how these hierarchical menus are sorted: by name, date modified, date created, or kind; you can also invert the sort order. You can choose the size of icons in the menus, and you can even view invisible items and force Mac OS X packages to show their contents as hierarchical menus.

I also prefer Quay’s approach to identifying aliases over Tiger’s: aliases are denoted by a black-and-white badge to the left of the item’s icon in the menu (Tiger simply displays an alias icon). And if, like me, there are some folders for which you think Stacks works well, the good news is that Quay doesn’t take over your entire Dock—you can have a mix of Stacks and Quay folders.

Quay options

Of course, as I noted above, Quay is currently in the beta-testing phase. The version I’ve been using, 1.0b5, still has a few visual oddities and minor bugs. In addition, although you can add multiple Quay-created folders to the Dock, only one will provide hierarchical menus; this limitation will be removed in the official release version.

But even with these minor issues, I’ve been enjoying Quay. Until Apple gives us the option to view folders in the Dock as hierarchical menus—if that ever happens—utilities like Quay will be a welcome addition to many Macs. I’m looking forward to the final release.

Quay requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

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