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How to work in OS X without using the Dock Desktop
I used to love the dock. The Microsoft task bar was the one cool thing about Windows that I missed in Mac OS 9 and below. When OS X came out, the most noticeable difference for me was the dock. However, I have found myself over the past couple of years using the dock less and less and instead using a variety of shareware programs, browswer tabs, keyboard shortcuts, etc -- and now with Panther and Exposé, I have finally hidden the dock for good. If you have a 23" monitor, it doesn't really matter -- but for all of you out there with small screens -- read on to gain back some precious screen real estate...

[robg adds: I know opinions on the dock vary greatly, and we've run previous hints about working around it and/or disabling it, but the following is a nice summary of other ways of doing Dock-like things.]

I will break it down into functions of the dock and how I have replaced them (borrowing heavily from other hints from this site):
  1. Application/Document Launching — you just can't beat LaunchBar -- a couple keystrokes and you can open any application, document, or website. Or open up an email to someone in your Address Book. Once you get used to this program, you won't be able to live without it. If you are really afraid of keyboard shortcuts, DragThing has been around before the dock and is also an excellent program, but I personally don't use it with LaunchBar.

  2. Application Switching — There are three easy ways to do this now — using LaunchBar (which I talked about above), Exposé, or Panther's built-in Application Switcher (aka hitting Apple-tab). Exposé (for which there are already a million hints about, but two remapping hints that I personally have found particularly helpful was to remap the Enter key on my powerbook and also to my mouse keys. The built-in app switcher, which has no real name (unless you want to call it Apple's version of LiteSwitchX) is explained in these hints: 1, 2

    The one thing that I'm not sure if there is a hint for (but there should be) -- is simply hitting Apple-tilde to switch between windows in an application (aka the non-graphical version of Exposé' F10). I actually learned that from the keyboard shortcuts list in the keyboard preference pane [robg adds: No hint about it because it's a built-in, documented system feature.].

  3. Notification (new mail, new iChat messages, etc). - I like having the little mail star showing when and how many new messages you have. That was the last thing I was missing from the dock. Although it does show when you activate the app switcher (Apple-tab), I like using Konfabulator, which is just a cool program and impossible to understand until you try it. It's reviewed here on Hints. There are a lot of mail checking 'widgets' that you can get at the Widget Gallery, but I like the mail check star. There are over 500 widgets now, most of them to be honest are useless (there are at least five dancing japanimation characters). However, after some trial and error, you will find some really good ones (right now in addition to the mail check I use: iTunes Bezel, iChat Bezel, iTunes History, TuneRater, miniCalendar, miniWeather, CNN Splash, NGDesktop Pic, and Quotes). For iChat, I just have it set to keep bouncing when I get a message for the first time (granted I don't use iChat a lot, so this might be a pain for somebody that uses it a lot -- there might be a widget that tells you when you get a new message or something).

  4. Minimized windows —Tthe cool thing about the Windows taskbar was that you could minimize windows, especially different web pages -- and quickly switch between them. Now, with the combination of Exposé, the app swicher, and tabbed browsing in basically every browser (I'm now almost exclusively using the OmniWeb beta because I love the graphical tabs feature) - I don't really feel the need to minimize windows anymore.

  5. Trash — I delete stuff by hitting apple-delete, so I don't use the drag and drop function. However, I still used the dock to see if the trash was full or to open it up until yesterday. Then I read the hint about Path Finder, which I hadn't ever tried before, although I had heard of it when it was called SNAX (reviewed here on Hints).

  6. Bookmarking documents/webpages — I was never a big user of using the second half of the dock (to the right/bottom of the line). Every now and then there was a webpage that I really didn't want to forget to go back to, so I'd throw it on the dock. Now, with Exposé, where I actually see my desktop again during a good part of the day, I'll just put a bookmark on the desktop. I also used to have the application menu on the dock so I could right click it for a contextual menu. Now I just use LaunchBar. For those of you that miss the contextual menu, PathFinder has an app menu in the program and on the menubar. For documents that I want to access frequently (e.g. a todo list), I'll put it on the titlebar of Finder or Path Finder (Path Finder continues to have a favorites folder as well that you could use).

  7. Dragging documents to Mail or an app to send/start up - I would often drag a document or a picture to the Mail app to send it. Honestly, I still do that with the dock hidden, but recently, I've found myself starting up my message using LaunchBar, then using Exposé to grab a file and drop it into the message.

  8. Quitting Applications - Instead of right clicking on programs in the dock, now I'll use the application switcher (Apple-tab then hit Q when the program you want to quit is highlighted). Also, Path Finder has a Processes drawer where you can easily quit apps by hitting the 'x' key.
I'm sure there are more features to the dock that I'm missing that there may or may not be easy replacements for. I hope this was helpful to somebody. Let me know what ideas you guys have for permanently hiding the dock.
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How to work in OS X without using the Dock | 42 comments | Create New Account
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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: BrentN on Mar 19, '04 12:00:17PM

Try Butler - http://www.petermaurer.de/butler

It requires a little more configuration than LaunchBar, but it does more, and the preferences are a lot less obtuse than LaunchBar's.



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: terceiro on Mar 19, '04 12:45:54PM

Ditto. I have ditched LaunchBar (which costs money) for Butler (which is donationware). I *love* the fact that I also get multiple pastboards + universal iTunes hotkeys + fast user switching + + + + +. I'd complain about feature-itis, except they all work so darned well!

The one downside of Butler over LaunchBar is that Butler isn't an application switcher (nor can you browse files thru the abbreviation feature). It made the command-space keystroke even more useful and second nature. At the rate Peter's going, I wouldn't be surprised to see it added in a future release, though!



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: asan102 on Mar 19, '04 10:55:16PM

Actually, Butler can function as an application switcher. Just add the Running Applications smart item to your configuration. You can have it as a menu on the right side of your menu bar, with the icon that of the current app (or any icon you wish) just like OS 9. You can also set it to pop up right under your mouse at the tap of a hot key, or pop-up when you click on a screen corner.



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: Myrddin on Mar 19, '04 01:24:48PM

I agree, Butler is an excellent application. It's nice having a thin strip down the right side of my screen giving me easy access to my stuff.



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QuickSilver
Authored by: gschueler on Mar 19, '04 07:29:27PM
Quicksilver also beats LaunchBar (and is free), although I'll have to try Butler to see how they compare.

My own rapidly graying app CornerClick is basically the "hot corner" feature in Butler, with less functionality. I had been hoping the QuickSilver developer would adopt that feature :)

Butler looks good. QuickSilver has lots of smart interaction with other apps, using Mac OS X Services fully, which is nice. It also has a drag'n'drop shelf which comes in handy occasionally.

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QuickSilver
Authored by: asan102 on Mar 19, '04 10:59:48PM

The interfaces of Quicksilver and Butler are somewhat different, as far as the abbreviation feature goes, but the look of Butler is pretty customizable, and IMO it's a better UI – much easier to use, and cleaner. Plus, all the awesome other features it has...



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: jeremyrh on Mar 20, '04 04:44:49PM

Tried Butler, and it's true that it does more than LaunchBar, but in the basic functionof launching apps it's just a bit slower and less reliable - for me, anyway - so I'm stickig with LaunchBar



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: swilcox on Mar 20, '04 08:31:37PM

Are you sure you tried it long enough to configure the abbreviations feature. I have mine set up to do everything I want it to and it's faster than Launchbar. But LaunchBar is fine software too. My experience with QuickSilver so far is that it's still kind of crash-prone.



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You -can- beat LaunchBar
Authored by: aranor on Mar 22, '04 08:03:48AM

I've never had a crash with Quicksilver. I upgrade every beta, and it's always worked just fine. Quicksilver is a great app!



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: eldenf on Mar 19, '04 12:31:47PM

I've found a number of tools that would allow me to avoid using the dock. Like you, I prefer LaunchBar. However, what you don't say in your hint... is how to turn off the dock. I would have to assume you are just turning on dock hiding and avoiding it. But is there actually a way to disable it altogether without suffering adverse effects?

---
-=Elden=-
http://www.eldenf.com



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A few steps
Authored by: VRic on Mar 19, '04 01:06:34PM

To disable the dock (at least in 10.2):

- move Dock.app out of System:Library:CoreServices:
(or else it will auto-respawn when you try to quit it)

- keep it anywhere you like and add it to every user's login items
(the desktop will misbehave if the dock doesn't launch after login)

- make a basic AppleScript applet that quits the Dock and add it to every user's login items after Dock.app (so that the Dock will launch then quit) - just don't add the "quit dock" applet to users who want to keep the Dock active

This allowed me to replace Apple's Dock with A-Dock, but since A-Dock X is inferior to its OS 9 version and Apple's Dock is needed for the "minimize window" feature to work and is sometimes usefull for feedback, I now try to ignore Apple's dock but keep it there (almost empty) in case I need those features, LaunchBar and Exposé make any dock obsolete as launcher/switcher.



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: Basilisk on Mar 19, '04 04:19:05PM

You can't completely kill the Dock and maintain full functionality. Expose, for example, requires the Dock. Hiding it is really the best solution.

Bas



[ Reply to This | # ]
How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: wgzn on Apr 13, '04 12:34:24AM

ive tried ALL the options to disable the dock.

the easiest is writing a short applescript that quits the dock and then making that a startup item - the big problem with that is that the dock is part of the finder so desktop images, shutting down, logging-out (and other key features) are also disabled.

the next best solution seems to be the one that reduces it to 1 pixel and crams it in the upper corner... nice, but still feels a bit hackish.

and ive found that ALL the quasi-commercial haxies are not any more effective.

ive pretty much decided that there is NO clean WAY to remove the dock without effecting something else. so...

i wish to God that apple would listen to all of us core users who HATE the F**king dock and get rid of the damn thing. that would then make "expose" (what a joke!) useless and we could get back to the apple menu and window shading. which were two key elements to the wonderfully efficient and distinctive apple OS experience.

does anyone else out there argree with me that the whole of the panther user experience is just way to damned much of a novelty?



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Getting Rid Of The Dock
Authored by: GuyToronto on Mar 22, '04 07:28:29AM

I wanted to get rid of the Dock too, but found it necessary for things like changing the desktop picture. The best solution is to alter the Dock so that it's positioned at the TOP of the screen, then pin it to the RIGHT.

That way the only way to actually have it pop-up is if you hover the cursor just below the menu bar. Details on how to set up this functionality are here:

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20030617042055170

Then I opened the dock.plist file, and changed the dock size to 1 (the minimum Apple lets you set it is 16). Save it, relaunch the dock, and done! Then if you do accidently rigger the dock, it, only shows as a small tab in the upper right hand corner under the menu bar. I can live with that!



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How to hide the Dock
Authored by: Gnarlodious on Mar 29, '04 12:16:52AM
You can't disable the Dock since it is integral with Finder, but you can reduce it to 1 pixel by editing the com.apple.dock.plist file:

Go to ~username/Library/Preferences folder for the file. Copy it just in case.
Drop the file on your text editor icon to open it or edit the properties with Properties Editor, which is included in Xcode.

Add this to the file in the appropriate place:


<key>tilesize</key> 
<real>1</real> 
which makes each Dock item (theoretically) 1 pixel in size.
Add the following to pin the Dock to the left-hand corner:

<key>pinning</key> 
<string>start</string> 
Save the file and relogin.
If your mouse now hits the bottom of the screen, the Dock will appear about a 5 millimeter MicroDock in the bottom when your pointer hits the bottom, so you won't notice it.
Set the now MicroDock to "Minimise using scale effect" and deselect "Animate opening applications" to conserve processor power.
Even though the Dock is now invisible it is still possible to activate and grab and drag it to a huge size!
Of course this would be an accident, but if it happens you can't reduce it to its miniscule size, the smallest it will now go is the minimum Prefpanel size. To make matters worse, the next time you logout it will overwrite your invisible prefs!
However, when the file is locked next time you login or restart Finder the Dock is once again invisible, so lock the file now for insurance!

Remember if anything goes wrong you have the original backuped file to replace the whacked one with, but I have been using this method to hide the Dock since October 2002 with no problems.

Here's hoping a future version of Finder will not require the Dock for its existence (Dock optional). This would free up the processor power the Dock uses even when invisible. This mod works wonderfully with Windowshade, which allows you to disable the blasted "Minimise to Dock" misfeature and further conserve processor power. DragThing makes an excellent replacement for the Dock.

Enjoy a Dockless desktop!

-- Gnarlodious

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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: cclifton on Mar 19, '04 01:33:07PM

Wow, thanks for taking the time to craft such a thorough and well-written hint! I also find Konfabulator invaluable, and dabbling in widget designing and coding is a lot of fun.

---
--
Curt



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: syko on Mar 19, '04 01:36:58PM

I will pay good $ for someone to write a program to MOVE the Dock to the '2nd' monitor! It's a huge waste of screen real estate to have it on the main monitor and would be more welcomed on my 2nd monitor..

please, someone, do it for me! (:



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you can... kinda
Authored by: DrAutomata on Mar 19, '04 01:48:51PM

Actually, it can be done already but it's not obvious how. In the arrange monitors setting you can move the dock to another monitor by dragging the sliver of the menu bar to the other monitor. Of course, you have to move the menu bar too. Maybe you already knew that and just want to move the dock.



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not what we're looking for...
Authored by: jiclark on Mar 19, '04 03:10:39PM

You're right, those of us that are looking for a way to move it to the second monitor, don't want to move the menubar as well. I've found that it can be moved to the far SIDE of the second monitor, but would love to have it on the bottom...

Oh well, we can hope that it'll be possible someday!



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Built in
Authored by: sinjin on Mar 19, '04 02:32:00PM

You can also move it to the "second monitor" by attaching your dock to the side of your main monitor that the second monitor happens to be on. E.g. if your second monitor sits to the right of the main, set the Dock's position to the right (in System Preferences).



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second menu bar?
Authored by: sjk on Mar 19, '04 04:37:33PM

Two monitors and you're complaining of wasted screen space? ;-)

I'd pay $ to have a second menu bar ("control strip") for menu extras to live on. It's rare having all their icons visible on my 1024x768 iBook display since the current application menu usually covers a few of 'em.

Seems like such a potentially useful utility for anyone using small displays that I'm surprised it hasn't been written yet (by Unsanity, for instance). Or have I just missed some way of doing this?



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second menu bar? - menu bar font size?
Authored by: jeep4stv on Mar 20, '04 09:01:52AM

well, what about changing the menu bar's font size? Anyone know how to do that?



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Use Tinkertool
Authored by: powerbookg3user0 on Mar 21, '04 09:26:08PM
Tinkertool can do this... and also change all of the system's fonts.

---
Takumi Murayama

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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: restiffbard on Mar 19, '04 02:08:27PM

Rob, I think this hint deserves some sort of meta-hint of the year award. Great hint, two thumbs up. Answered questions I didn't know I had.



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Minimized Windows
Authored by: Viridian on Mar 19, '04 02:55:23PM
For those who like minimized windows, there's WindowShade X. A wonderful utility for small monitors, it enables you to collapse windows to titlebars, make them varying levels of transparency, or minimize them to the desktop.

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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: swilcox on Mar 19, '04 03:58:39PM

Great hints. I agree with others about Butler. It has become an indispensable utility for me, replacing LaunchBar. It's an application to watch!

I have become fond of A-Dock recently. I keep it on the right side, and use TinkerTool to move the dock to the top. If you make it very small before moving it, you really never notice that it's there. I like the ability to hide apps in A-Dock (so they never appear there); the trash tells where the trashed item is if you multiple volumes; there are some very useful modules (Disk Module, Rendezvous Module); and I just like that the thing pops up much faster than the Dock, which now feels like molasses when I use it.

I also cannot live without Desktop Manager now. Even though it's called an "alpha" version at .51, it's never caused me any problems.



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: twalkabout on Mar 19, '04 04:47:50PM
Thanks for the compliments on the hint, I appreciate you guys letting me know it was useful. Also, thanks Rob for cleaning up my hint and making all the links into HTML and adding the boldfacing (I'll be sure to do that in future submissions).

I had never heard of Butler, but I just downloaded it, and it does seem pretty sweet. The screen that pops up when you activate it is definitely better looking than LaunchBar. Somebody also wrote me about Quicksilver which also seems like a really nice launcher. Somebody will have to do a review of all the different launchers at some point.

I also hadn't ever really considered getting rid of the dock all together, although it would have been a good thing to add to my hint. However, it sounds like from the previous comment that it doesn't work so well in Panther.

Keep the comments coming on other alternatives to the dock, I'm finding them really helpful. Thanks! --Tom--

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i like maxmenus...
Authored by: nick on Mar 19, '04 06:28:31PM

it provides fastest access to my application-folder (actually a folder with categrorized aliases to my apps). it supports keyboard-shortcuts and is an unobstrusive as can be and a real KING in ergonomics: as it comes as small colored corners, its impossilbe to missclick it. it complements well with light-switch-x (which i probably hadn't bought for panther). it supports drag-n-drop, so i can drop downloaded apps to my appfolder, aliases to the category-folder and the dmg to my programm-installer-folder, all without using the finder. Check this out:
http://www.relaxed-clubbing.de/MaxMenus.jpg
http://www.proteron.com/maxmenus/

[ Reply to This | # ]

i like maxmenus...
Authored by: asan102 on Mar 19, '04 11:03:51PM

Butler does all that and much more.



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i like maxmenus...
Authored by: dave1212 on Mar 20, '04 01:59:04AM
Yup, and (since you're so fond of boldface) it costs money.

I used it the whole time I ran 10.1 and 10.2 until Another Launcher (now called Butler) appeared. Butler's better, try it out.

---
______
http://www.68kmla.ca/

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i like maxmenus...
Authored by: nick on Mar 20, '04 03:02:26AM
money? (just my 0.02$)

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i like maxmenus...
Authored by: dave1212 on Mar 20, '04 10:32:56PM
The nag screens until you buy a license. Back to the issue at hand, one of the great things about the Dock itself is the ability to hold URLs. I use this for temporary bookmarks, or things I'm reading that I want to get back to.

---
______
http://www.68kmla.ca/

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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: themexican on Mar 19, '04 06:48:43PM

I do all of the above except when it comes to minimized windows. I, like many designers like a clean desktop and using expose to manage windows for a bunch of applications quickly leads to clutter. Anyway I swear by windowshade using it's minimize feature. http://www.unsanity.com

---
The one system enhancement from OS 9 I still miss is taskmenubar allowed one click access to all your running apps without taking up any desktop space. The process dock in drag thing is a close approximation, but it still takes up desk space (taskmenubar went up in the menu which was great if you have a big screen).



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: Ganymede on Mar 20, '04 12:14:09AM

You can make DragThing's Process Dock minimize in the background. I experimented with that, but I prefer to keep it maximized on my second monitor, so I can see all the processes all the time. I'm not quite sure how to make it snap open when you mouse over it, perhaps try it as a drawer. Snapping open unbidden was one of my biggest complaints about the dock.



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: William McCallum on Mar 20, '04 10:52:56AM
In response to the person missing the task menubar, there is a shareware utilitiy that does this, ASM.

[ Reply to This | # ]
ASM
Authored by: powerbookg3user0 on Mar 21, '04 10:05:36PM
ASM costs $ so I use X-Assist. Even if it is at v0.7, it's FREE! (or should I say, donationware)

---
Takumi Murayama

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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: jdhorner on Mar 20, '04 02:52:27PM

please, everyone, don't hate me for saying this, but isn't it also possible to think along these lines:

the dock does all of this stuff. why try to go to such great lengths to rid yourself of it? i have one application that takes care of everything, it's free, part of my system, etc... all without any system hacks, losing resources, or worrying about having to track fifteen different apps and upgrades, and such. not to mention worrying about what a future upgrade to OS X might do to the functionality of those apps...

just my $0.02

---

-------
sig? who said anything about a sig?



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: twalkabout on Mar 20, '04 04:56:47PM

The dock is great, but personally, I've found myself using it less and less because it became easier for me to use the other methods described above. In particlar, once I started using a launcher (e.g. LaunchBar, Butler, or Quicksilver) and Exposé/App Switcher -- then I rarely needed the dock since I was no longer using the dock for it's main purposes (app launching/switching) So I started hiding it just so I could get the extra screen space. So the point, for me, of not using the dock — is really a matter of ease and extra screen space.

Sorry, I didn't explain this very well in my hint.

--Tom--



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: profolio on Mar 21, '04 09:02:52AM

Good point..! I too try to avoid third party software that could potentially wreak havoc on my system. I find the dock to be an excellent tool especially when working on a multitude of different images in Photoshop. I often have twenty or more stored in the dock with magnification turned on so they can be easily identified and retrieved in a flash.

---
Michel



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: William McCallum on Mar 22, '04 12:48:16AM

The dock doesn't "do all these things". Some people (like me) get mouse-averse as they get older, because of repetitive stress syndrome. If I use the mouse too much I get pains in my knuckles and elbows. Things like Launchbar enable me to keep my hands on the keyboard, which does not cause the same problems. (Butler, by the way, is not as good from this point of view; it is slower than Launchbar if you try to use it as a purely keyboard-based launcher and switcher.)



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How to work in OS X without using the Dock
Authored by: ken22 on May 06, '04 02:29:35PM

Have you tried such shareware such as iCan (puts a trash can on your desktop as in OS 9), ASM (provides an OS 9 type application menu in the right corner of the menu bar) and AliasMenu (provides multiple pull down menus that can be filled with whatever you want, in any order you want, similar to Now Menus or Action Menus).



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How to avoid clutter
Authored by: songpenguin on Feb 27, '06 02:39:05AM

I have been reading the comments and noticed that a lot of people have been talking about minimizing windows et all. and how they remove desktop clutter. I have always used Hide and Hide Others from the program menu. When I need those windows I command-tab over to the hidden program and it's there. I use this a lot with xcode because of all it's windows.

--
songpenguin



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