Saturday, March 08, 2008

Fun with Stacks

Yes, I got my Mac back up and going. Found out that a few files either weren't backed up to Time Machine or weren't restored back from Time Machine, but otherwise it went quite well.

One of the problems that I and many other people have had with the Apple dock is that if you put all the programs you use regularly onto the dock, it gets so wide that you have to shrink it teensy-tiny to fit all the programs onto it. You could put your Applications folder on the dock, but when you clicked on it then a new folder window popped up and took up space on your screen. Mac OS X 10.5 ("Leopard") introduces a new feature that helps with dock clutter: Stacks.

To add your Applications folder to your dock, simply open up a Finder window, click on your hard drive name (probably "Macintosh"), and grab the Applications folder that should thence appear. Drag it down to the right side of the dock (on the right side of the little divider), and position it between two other icons at the very bottom of the screen. Then drop it. It'll then stay there as a Stack. Then whenever you want to fire up an application, all you have to do is move down to your dock, click on the icon for the Applications folder, and you'll see a temporary Finder-like menu pop up with all your applications and can choose which one to start without having to open up a Finder window into your Applications folder. Once you choose an application to run, the stack then "closes" -- no Finder window to have to go track down and hit the 'close' button on.

I personally install all the 3rd party applications I can into a "Penguin's Software" folder and plop that onto my dock too, as well as Apple's "Utilities" folder. Then I clean up the dock icons on the left side of the dock to get rid of all but the most-used icons or those which are in sub-directories where it's not worth making them into a Stack. So the right side of my Dock has several Stacks which work somewhat similar to the Windows 'Programs' menu. Except much easier to manage, since it gets automatically updated by installing or deleting an application into a particular directory and because I can split it into multiple "menus" (Stacks) rather than having one big humongous multi-level menu.

There are some things that were introduced with Mac OS 10.5 that are so much glitz and glamour, all sizzle and no steak. Stacks, at first glance, appear to be one of those all-sizzle-no-steak features. But once you realize that you can put your Applications folders onto your Dock as Stacks, suddenly it becomes far, far more useful -- and makes using your Mac even more pleasant than it already was, since now you've solved two problems (Dock clutter and Finder window clutter) with one feature.

-- Badtux the Techie Penguin

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