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Ding Dong, the Dock Is Dead

How to make OS X look and act more like OS 9 By Kevin Schmitt
One of the biggest complaints I hear about OS X from non-OS X users is that they are so used to the Classic Mac interface that they don't want to learn a new way of doing things. And, up until a few weeks ago, I would smugly counter that complaint with, "OS X is the future, so just deal with it." Well, I no longer say that. Instead, I now say "OS X is the future, but you don't have to completely lose the interface you're used to."

If you're one of the three or four people that regularly read my musings, you might be screaming that I'm a hypocrite. After all, it wasn't too long ago that I was shouting from the mountaintops how much I loved the changes in OS X. Don't get me wrong; I still do. But after using OS X almost exclusively for a few months, I began to realize that I wasn't working quite as smoothly in X as I did in 9. Believe me, I don't miss the crashes one bit, which is why I gave the Classic Mac OS the boot in the first place. But I wasn't getting around quite as easily in X. So I began a journey to a Classic-inspired OS X interface, which all started with my growing dislike for the Dock.

Dock woes
I still really like the Dock, at least in theory. A centralized toolbar where you can launch applications, monitor what's in use, manage your system resources, switch programs, and so on. Versatile, convenient, usable. In the real world, however, I couldn't really ever figure out what to do with the stinkin' thing. Should I hide it or always have it showing? Should I turn magnification on or off? How big should I make the icons? What's the best way for me to replicate the Apple Menu in the Dock? What side of the screen do I want it on? Should I corner pin it or not? So many questions, and I must have tried at least a thousand variations on a suitable Dock setup before I came up with something I could work with (fig. 1).

Fig 1: My somewhat usable Dock setup, with a process menu on the left and what passed for an Apple menu next to the trash can.

Even though I had found an arrangement I liked, the Dock managed to tick me off because it was always in the way. Heaven forbid you try to maximize a window, because it would never go underneath the Dock the way I wanted, leaving a gigantic area of unused screen real estate extending out from either side of the Dock (fig. 2). And for all its purported flexibility, there were some things I wanted it to do that it just refused to do, like banish a program's icon from ever showing up in it (doable, but requires a terminal hack that, unfortunately, also obscured the target program's menu bar as well). Plus, I didn't like having to launch apps from the Dock when I had a constant reminder of the former greatness of the Apple Menu staring uselessly at me. The current incarnation of the Apple Menu is so worthless, it's almost as if it's only there as a mocking reminder that Steve Jobs really, REALLY wants you to use the Dock. And finally, I hated that I couldn't NOT use the Dock. Even hidden, it would pop up and get in my way if I pushed my cursor too far. It was all these frustrations with the Dock that left me longing for my Classic setup.

Fig 2: A lot of OS X apps don't like to get in the way of the Dock when their windows are maximized, which can mean tons o' barren screen real estate. What a waste.

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