The 7 Best Tricks to Tweak the Dock in macOS


Just like the Windows taskbar, the Dock on macOS is a powerful feature for accessing frequently used applications and files. While the default behavior of the Dock is good enough, there are additional settings that you can tweak to make it even better.

Here, we will share seven simple and effective tips to help you get the most out of your Dock. Whether you want to simplify its appearance, access more features, or streamline your workflow, you’ll find each item of the list below useful.

1. Quick Dock Settings

macOS Dock quick settings

Let’s start with some quick changes you can make to the Dock by Control-clicking it:

  • Size: Hover your cursor over the divider on the Dock, and it will turn into an arrow that you can drag up and down to increase/decrease the Dock size.
  • Turn Hiding On/Off: When enabled, this feature will hide your Dock by default; it will only pop up when you bring your cursor to the bottom of the screen.
  • Turn Magnification On/Off: This feature adds a magnification effect to the icons in the Dock when you hover the cursor over them.
  • Position on Screen: This will let you reposition your Dock on the screen.
  • Minimizing Using: When minimizing windows to your Dock, you can choose between the Genie or the Scale Effect.

You can further tweak each of the settings above if you head to System Settings > Desktop & Dock. There, you will also find these two additional options:

Additional quick options for Dock on macOS

  • Double-click a window’s title bar to: This feature gives you two options: minimize a window when you double-click its title bar or maximize it.
  • Minimize windows into application icon: This feature is for those bothered by a cluttered Dock. If enabled, you can minimize apps without them taking more space on your Dock as minimized windows.

2. Add or Remove Items

Folders and files in Dock

The Dock doesn’t just let you quickly access a set of apps; it also lets you tweak this set and only keep the apps you want. Not just that, you can add documents and folders to the Dock as well. Here’s how.

  • Apps: By dragging and dropping apps to the Dock, you can make them stay there. You can either drag and drop apps from the Applications folder or the Launchpad.
  • Documents: Find the file or document you want to add to the Dock. Drag and drop it to the right side of the divider that separates the Trash and your main apps. Now, whenever you click the file icon in the Dock, it will open that file for you.
  • Folders: Adding folders to the Dock will allow you to access its contents quickly. By Control-clicking the folder, you can change the sorting and viewing behavior and even display contents as a stack.

To remove any of these items, simply drag and drop their icon from the Dock. In case that doesn’t work for you, Control-click the item, and go to Options > Remove from Dock.

3. Add Recent Apps to the Dock

Often, we open apps on our Mac, and they appear on the Dock. But, when we quit them, they disappear, only for us to resort to the Mac’s Launchpad when we have to relaunch them. This is because, by default, non-native and secondary apps (the ones you’ve installed or just aren’t as important) on your Mac are placed in Launchpad to avoid clutter.

Keep recent apps in Dock

You can cut down this exercise by Control-clicking the app and going to Options > Keep in Dock. This would make the app stay permanently in the Dock. However, this would also increase clutter. So, you can remove the apps you don’t use (like Apple TV and Podcast apps) and replace them with the more useful ones.

4. Change App Icons in the Dock

If you want to tweak the aesthetics of your Dock and the way the apps look, you can change app icons. To do so, simply download an icon pack that matches your vibe or individual icons in PNG format and follow these steps:

  1. From the Applications folder on your Mac, Control-click the app you want to change the icon for and select Get Info.
    Getting info for Photoshop app

  2. Drag and drop the new icon on the old one (which you can find in the top-left corner of the App Info window) to replace it.
    Drag-and-drop new icon for the app

  3. Enter your Mac’s password when prompted to complete this change.
    Enter password to save new icon

This also works for the folders in the Dock, though not for native Mac apps such as Safari.

5. Customize the Dock From System Settings

Additional Dock advanced settings

In addition to the items we covered earlier, there are a few more advanced options in System Settings > Desktop & Dock. Here’s a summary of the features and what they offer:

  • Animate opening applications: Whenever you launch an app from the Dock, it does a subtle bounce animation. If you find this annoying, turn it off by disabling the Animate opening application from System Settings > Desktop & Dock.
  • Show indicators for open applications: When an app is active on your Mac, it will show a dot below the app icon in the Dock. You can turn this off by disabling Show indicators for open applications in the Dock menu.
  • Show recent applications in Dock: By default, the Dock displays three of your recently used apps on the right. These are separated from the main apps in your Dock by a divider. You can turn this off by disabling Show recent application in Dock.

6. Advanced Dock Settings Using Terminal

You can use a couple of cool Terminal commands to customize your Dock, too. To execute a command, paste it into Terminal, hit the Return key, type killall Dock, and hit the Return key again.

To add spaces between Dock icons, use the following command:

defaults write persistent-apps -array-add '{"tile-type"="spacer-tile";}';

Empty space in Dock command

You can remove these empty spaces by Control-clicking them and selecting Remove from Dock.

Removing empty space from Dock

To make the Dock show only the active apps, use the command:

defaults write static-only -bool TRUE

Show only active apps command

To reset this, replace TRUE in the command with FALSE and execute it.

7. Monitor Performance From the Dock

If you worry about performance a lot, you might want to add the Activity Monitor app to the Dock. It shares in-depth metrics about CPU, memory, disk, and more. You can add it to your Dock using the methods above for a quick status check if you don’t want to open its detailed interface.

Activity monitor for Dock

Users can also customize what statuses are displayed. However, the app must remain open for the app to work properly. To keep track of system performance metrics such as CPU Usage, Disk Activity, Network Usage, from the Dock, Control-click Activity Monitor in the Dock, and from Monitors and Dock Icon options, select the activity or usage you’d like to see on your Dock.

Improve Your Mac Experience With These Dock Tweaks

Like many other native macOS features, the Dock is great even with its default settings. However, if you want to give it a more personal touch and make things more efficient, the tips we discussed should help you do so. Even the small stuff, such as changing animations, can make a big difference to the look and feel of your Mac.


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