Back before Apple released Mac OS X 10.5.2, fixing several of my complaints about Stacks, I previewed Rainer Brockerhoff’s Quay, a promising utility that added hierarchical menus to the Leopard Dock. In other words, it gave you the pre-Leopard ability to place a folder in the Dock and then navigate that folder’s contents via a hierarchical Dock menu.
Now that the 10.5.2 Update has largely addressed the biggest Stacks complaints—including restoring hierarchical Dock menus for folders—you might think that Quay is no longer necessary. And for some users that may indeed be the case. But since my look at an early Quay beta last November, Quay has been improved considerably; the recently-released Quay 1.1b3 ( ; €7) brings many refinements and new features. For many people—including me—Quay offers enough improvements over Leopard’s stock Dock behavior, even in 10.5.2, to warrant its reasonable price.
The biggest change in Quay since my original coverage is that it no longer requires you to manually configure each folder/stack to which you want Quay’s options to apply. (In early versions, you had to drag a folder to the Quay application and then drag the folder's icon from Quay to the Dock; you had to repeat this process for each folder.) In the current version of Quay, all stacks—i.e., all folders in the Dock—automatically take on Quay’s hierarchical-menu behavior; there’s no configuration involved. This also means that you can access Quay’s menu options by right-clicking on a stack, just as you would normally access Leopard’s options for that stack.
This new, automatic behavior necessitates a way to choose whether or not Quay’s enhancements are applied to a stack; the developer has provided two such options. First, a setting in Quay’s preferences—accessible by Command+Option+clicking on the Dock’s divider—lets you choose whether Quay applies to all stacks or to just those you’ve chosen to display in List view. This means that you can still use Leopards’ Fan or Grid view for certain folders. Second, you can temporarily override Quay’s behavior for a stack by holding down the Option key when you click on that folder in the Dock. This is a useful feature, especially for those who want Quay’s features but prefer Leopard’s Dock-icon options—by Option+right-clicking on a stack, you can choose how the folder appears in the Dock (as a stack icon or using the folder’s own icon).
But why Quay?
Still, you may be wondering why you’d use Quay over Leopard’s now-built-in functionality. The simplest reason, though perhaps the most compelling one for many users, is that Quay-enhanced hierarchical Dock menus resolve aliases. In other words, if a stack contains a folder alias, a Quay-enhanced menu will let you navigate the contents of the aliased folder; Leopard’s hierarchical (List) view does not.
The other major feature Quay provides is the capability to display much more information in a list-view Dock menu. In addition to Leopard’s own options, Quay lets you sort by label, file size, or application (for example, all Excel files grouped together); you can also invert the sort order. You can choose the size of icons in the menu, or to instead display a small preview of each item; alternatively, you can choose to omit icons altogether. You can also choose to see invisible items in Dock menus, as well as to navigate the contents of packages. A useful option shows the number of items in each folder; alternatively, Quay can display the modification or creation date, label, or file size next to each item.
To give you a taste of this functionality, here are the display options I’ve chosen for one particular folder (left), along with the Quay-enhanced Dock menu for that folder (right):
I generally don’t use all those options simultaneously, but it’s nice to know I can. Similarly, although I don’t have many folders with huge numbers of items inside, Quay’s menus can display up to “tens of thousands” of items, according to the developer; Leopard’s List-view Dock menus are limited to 500 items.
Quay also provides useful information about applications. If you Command+Option+click on a running program in the Dock, you get a Dock menu displaying statistics about that program: its version, the memory it’s using (this is the same as Activity Monitor’s Real Memory number), its average CPU use, and its current CPU use. (If a program isn’t running, only its version will appear.)
A simple, but much-requested, feature provided by Quay is the ability to open a stack’s folder in the Finder with a single click. (Background: In Tiger and earlier versions of OS X, a single click on a Dock folder would open that folder in the Finder; there is no equivalent in Leopard. The closest you can get is to Command-click on a folder in the Dock, which reveals it, meaning it shows that folder inside the folder enclosing it. This isn’t terrible for those who view all Finder windows in Column view, as the contents of the folder are also visible, but those who prefer the Finder’s List or Icon view have to then take the additional step of opening the folder.) Granted, Quay’s Shift+Command+click action requires modifier keys, but it’s currently the only way I’ve discovered to directly open a stack’s folder in the Finder without having to access that stack's menu and then click on the Open command.
Finally, Quay has another set of options that are available to special “Quay icons”—Dock items created using the original Quay procedure of dragging a folder onto the Quay application. When you do this, you can right-click on the folder’s icon in Quay to customize the icon. You can change its base icon, its badge (the identifying image on the folder), and its color. A wide range of options are provided, or you can choose your own images or colors. The other unique option here is that you can drag the resulting Quay icon to the left side of the Dock (with applications). Although I’ve never had a need for such a feature, I’ve heard enough requests from readers that I know some people do.
Most of Quay’s negatives are fairly minor: For example, Quay-enhanced Dock/stack menus are a tad slower to appear than Leopard’s stock menus. If you choose to show Finder labels in Quay-enhanced menus, sometimes those labels don’t appear for aliases. And sometimes aliases appear as the original file in Quay-enhanced menus (although I can’t think of any drawbacks to such behavior, wrong though it is).
The other two issues I experienced are also minor, but have had more of an effect on my day-to-day work. First, if you place a network-volume-hosted folder in your Dock, both stock and Quay-enhanced Dock menus will display that folder’s contents as long as the volume is mounted. If the volume isn’t mounted, a standard Dock/stack menu attempts to mount the volume; a Quay-enhanced menu simply displays an error. (The Quay menu provides a file:// link to the volume’s path, but clicking on that link doesn’t actually mount the volume as you might expect it to.) The workaround is to Option+click on the folder’s Dock icon. As noted above, this reverts to Leopard’s default behavior—in this case, to mount the volume.
Second, Quay offers no way to set default view options for Quay-enhanced menus. I add folders to and remove folders from the Dock quite frequently, and I usually choose the same set of view options for each. The lack of configurable default-view options means I have to manually set those options for each new folder.
Those minor issues aside, I’ve become a big fan of Quay. If, like me, you’re an avid user of hierarchical Dock menus, Quay takes them to another level.
Quay 1.1b3 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.