Dock and Stacks

When OS X 10.5 was first released last fall, one of its marquee features was Stacks, those special folders in the Dock that pop up in a fan-like listing of your files. Unfortunately, once users had a chance to work with them, Stacks quickly became one of Leopard’s most reviled new features. Apple fixed many of Stacks’ problems with 10.5.2. And we’ve also found some tricks and workarounds that actually make Stacks useful. Here are a few of our favorites, plus some helpful tweaks to the Dock.


Add a Recent-Items Stack - Another feature that Apple has included in Leopard but hasn’t made easily available is a recent-items stack. To get it, go to Terminal and type defaults write persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'. Then press return and type killall Dock. Choose the kinds of items that appear in this stack by control-clicking on it and selecting applications, documents, servers, volumes, or items (namely, entries in the Places section of your Finder sidebar).—Dan Frakes

Mouse-Over Effect: By adding a mouse-over effect to stacks (when they’re in Grid view), you can make it easy to pick out the item you want.
Add a Trash Stack - Want to be able to quickly view and restore recently deleted files? Create a Trash stack: open a new Finder window and press command-shift-G to open the Go To Folder dialog box. In the input area, type ~/.Trash; then click on Go. You should now have a Finder window displaying the contents of your Trash. When you drag the Trash’s proxy icon from the window’s title bar to your Dock, the Finder will create a Trash stack.—Rob Griffiths

Drag and Drop from Stacks - If you want to launch a stack item in an application other than the one it normally opens in, you can drag the item from its stack onto the program you want to use, whether the program is in the Dock, the Applications folder, the sidebar, or the toolbar. You can also drag items from a stack to another location: open that other location in the Finder, and then drag the item to it from the stack.—Rob Griffiths

Launch Stack Entries with the Keyboard - Once you’ve clicked on a stack to open it, you can use the keyboard to navigate through it. To select a particular file, type the first couple of letters of its name. You can also move through a stack with your arrow and tab keys.—Chris Breen

Open Multiple Items - If you want to open more than one item in a stack, just hold down the option key; each time you click on an item, that item will open in the Finder while the stack remains open. If the Finder isn’t the frontmost application, the windows will open in the background.—Dan Frakes

Add a Mouse-Over Effect - Apple has included a nice mouse-over effect that (in Grid view) highlights items in a stack as your cursor passes over them. Unfortunately, it hasn’t provided an easy way to turn this feature on. The best way to do so is to open Terminal and type defaults write mouse-over-hilte-stack -boolean YES. Then, press return and type killall Dock. To change back to Leopard’s stock Dock, repeat the two commands, replacing YES with NO.—Dan Frakes

Recent-Items Stack: With a Terminal command, you can add a recent-items stack to your Dock—then you can customize it to show recent documents, applications, and more.


Add Spacers to the Dock - To make your Dock more orderly, you might want to separate icons into groups. To add a space between applications in the applications area of the Dock, launch Terminal and enter defaults write persistent-apps -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'. To add a space between documents on the right side of the Dock, type defaults write persistent -others -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'. To see the changes you’ve wrought, type killall Dock in the command line. If you want to get rid of a space you’ve added, just drag it off the Dock.—Christopher Breen

Quick-Toggle Dock Magnification - You can enable and disable Dock Magnification (which enlarges Dock icons as you move your mouse cursor over them) via the Dock’s preference pane. If Magnification is disabled but you want to enable it temporarily so you can get a better look at a particular icon, simply hold down shift-control as you move your mouse cursor over the Dock. Icons will be magnified as long as you hold down those keys. This also works in reverse: if Dock Magnification is enabled, holding down shift-control will temporarily disable it.—Dan Frakes

Navigate the Dock with the Keyboard - You could use your keyboard to control the Dock in previous versions of OS X, and Leopard’s Dock is even more keyboard-friendly. As before, you can activate the Dock by pressing control-F3. But now, in addition to using the left- and right-arrow keys to select icons, you can type the first letters in the name of the program, file, or folder you’d like to select. The Dock will highlight matches as you type. Matching is based on the full name of the program as shown in the Finder, so you may want to do some renaming to make this more intuitive. For instance, if you remove Microsoft from the names of Office applications, you can type Exc, Pow, and Wor to select Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, respectively. And as before, once you’ve selected an icon, pressing return will open it, while pressing the up-arrow key will summon its Dock menu.—Rob Griffiths

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