Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

What I Use: What’s in My Dock

Dan's Dock
Dan’s Dock

The Dock has been a staple of Apple products since before Mac OS X first debuted back in 2001. (It appeared in the Public Beta that was released in 2000 and, of course, was derived from the NextSTEP and OpenStep OSes that it drew from.) It’s evolved over the years, but in the end has remained more or less true to that initial concept: a place to keep your frequently used applications, folders, and files. Since then, it’s migrated to iOS to become a fixture on the iPhone and iPad as well—there’s even a Dock on the Apple Watch. (Sorry, Apple TV!)

So, with that in mind, here’s how I use the Dock on my Macs.

Orientation: Yep, I’m a bottom-of-the-screen Dock guy. Back in the day, one of the first things I used to do when setting up a new Mac was install TinkerTool and use a secret preference to pin the Dock to the bottom right, mainly because I liked having the Trash always in the bottom right corner of the screen. But alas, as of Yosemite, Apple killed off this hidden feature, which means I’ve ended up in the bottom middle. You and your vertical-Dock-loving compatriots can leave me alone.

Auto-hide: Nope. With the exception of when I need to temporarily view something in a larger window on my MacBook Air, my Dock is always displayed.

Magnification: Are you kidding? No. God no.

Minimize Effect: Scale. Naturally. Though the number of times I need to put a window in the dock is…well, almost never.

Apps: Okay, here we go, the meat of this. From left to right.

Finder. Duh.

Mail. Email is far from dead; it’s still the first thing I need to check every day. So Mail earns that first spot and, frankly, is pretty much always running on my Mac.

Safari. Let’s be honest: a browser is the one app you pretty much can’t avoid using. I’m writing this in Safari right now. So of course it takes the number two spot.

Messages. If I’m not sending emails, Messages is probably the next most frequent app I use to talk to friends, family, and colleagues. I have ongoing threads with several of my podcast co-hosts, a few of my cousins, my girlfriend—and, heck, even my mom uses iMessage now.

iTunes. Look, I don’t like it anymore than you do, but it’s still the way I listen to music on my Mac, look things up in the iTunes and App Stores, and even occasionally interface with iOS devices. (Though to be honest, all of those things are less frequent occurrences than they used to be.)

Calendar. Scheduling has become a necessity for me. Somewhere younger-me rolls his eyes about “being bound to other people’s conception of time, man” but younger-me also only had to show up before the dining hall stopped serving breakfast. So, yeah. Calendar’s earned its place.

Tweetbot. I’m not going to lie: Twitter’s become a challenge over the last year or so. But it’s still a major way that I talk to friends and colleagues, keep up with the news, and—more recently—try to get word out about my book. Tweetbot has been my client of choice for a long time, though I have to admit being tempted by the resurrected Twitterrific for Mac.

BBEdit. It remains the tool I use for doing the vast majority of my non-fiction writing on the Mac, as well as a veritable Swiss Army Knife of dealing with text. Terminal. I still like getting my hands dirty in the command line, and I use it just enough that it merits a place on my Dock. Sometimes there’s just no better way to get something done.

Slack. While Twitter’s been on the ebb, I’ve found Slack on the rise. It’s kind of like Twitter, except I only get to talk to a small group of people who I know I like. It’s become an app that I have open pretty much all the time, so of course it’s earned a place in the Dock

App Store. The Mac App Store has hardly been lavished with a lot of love and attention over the past few years, but it’s still important enough that I want to have quick access to it—especially for app and system updates.

Folders: I only have two folders in my Dock, but they’re both ones that I use pretty frequently—however, I have specific settings that I like for each of them.

Applications. Generally I launch apps that aren’t on the Dock via Spotlight, but it’s still occasionally handy to have a quick list of all my applications, especially when Spotlight misbehaves, as it does from time to time. It also makes it easy to drag stuff into my Applications folder without having to dig through a Finder window. Displayed as a Folder, sorted by Name, content viewed as a List.

Downloads. It’s a catch-all folder that I probably let amass way too much crud, but as such, I often want to take stuff in or out of it, so having it always at my fingertips is crucial. Displayed as a Folder, sorted by Date Added, content viewed as a Grid.

Trash. Naturally. Where else are you going to put it?

That’s it for my Macs’ Dock—and yes, before you ask, both my iMac and MacBook Pro have pretty much the same line-up on them. What can I say, I like consistency. My Mac mini server has a slightly different assortment of things since I usually need to do different tasks there. And, of course, there are the Docks on my iOS devices—but that’s a story for another issue.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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