MacBook

Your Mac comes with a small panel along the edge of the screen called the Dock: It lets you quickly access your favorite apps, files, and folders, as well as any actively-running apps. When you save an item to the Dock, you can access it at any time by clicking on it.

By default, most of Apple's built-in apps start with shortcuts saved in the Dock, but you can also remove those shortcuts and add your own. You can also customize the Dock to fit your preferences. Here's how.

What is the Dock, and what gets displayed there?

The Dock has been with the Mac for over a decade, now: It offers you a quick way to access the Finder (your Mac's underlying filesystem) as well as your currently running applications, favorite apps, favorite files or folders, and the Trash.

When you first set up your Mac, your Dock lives along the bottom of your screen in a translucent rectangle; if you don't like its positioning, you can move it to the left or right of the screen, or have it automatically hide whenever you're not interacting with it. Items are organized as follows, left to right:

  • The Finder
  • Favorite app shortcuts
  • Currently-running apps (you can also choose in the Dock preferences whether you want to view an indicator (a little black dot) for currently-open apps)
  • Favorite files or folders
  • The Trash

Though you can shuffle the position of app shortcuts in the Dock, you can't move the Finder or Trash — they live on opposite ends of the Dock, respectively — nor can you mix file shortcuts with apps in the same section.

How to add apps to the Dock on your Mac

  1. Launch a Finder window from your Dock.
  2. Click on Applications in the sidebar.

    Launch finder, then select Applications from the sidebar

  3. Select an app and drag it to the Dock.
  4. Let go of the app while it hovers over the Dock.

    Select an application, then drag the application to the Dock

If you want to permanently add a currently-running app to your Dock:

  1. Right-click or Control-click on the app icon in the Dock.
  2. Select Options under the drop-down menu.
  3. Click on Keep in Dock.

You can alternatively just drag the icon to a different position in your Dock, which will automatically save it as a favorite shortcut.

How to add files and folders to the Dock on your Mac

Files and folders can also be saved to your Dock, but they can only be stored on the far right of the Dock, after your app shortcuts. The Dock has a demarcating line that separates apps from files and folders, so you won't mix them up.

  1. Launch a Finder window from your Dock.
  2. Select a file or folder from its location on your Mac and drag it to the right side of the Dock.
  3. Let go of the file or folder while it hovers over the right side of the Dock.

How to remove apps, files, and folders from the Dock on your Mac

If you don't want a particular app, file or folder in your Dock anymore, you can remove it with just one gesture. Note that this doesn't remove the item from your computer, it just removes the shortcut from the Dock; you can always re-add the app or folder by following the steps above.

  1. Select an app, file, or folder and drag it out of the Dock.

    When it is hovering over your desktop, you will see the word Remove appear above the app, file, or folder.

  2. Let go of the app, file, or folder. It will disappear from the Dock.

  3. Repeat the steps above to remove all items you no longer want to kept in the Dock.

    Select an app in the Dock, then drag it out of the Dock

Note: If you do this on a currently-open app, it will continue to stay in the Dock until you Quit the application, at which point it will disappear.

How to organize the Dock on your Mac

You can rearrange the placement of apps, files, and folders in your Dock so they are in alphabetical order, color-coordinated, or however you like.

Note: You can't move the Finder or Trash icons to the far left and right of the Dock respectively. They are anchored to the Dock because of their importance to the system.

  1. Select an app, file, or folder in the Dock.
  2. Drag it to a new location in the Dock.
  3. Let go of the app, file, or folder while it hovers over the new location in the Dock.

    Select an app in the Dock, then drag it to a new location in the Dock

How to change the Dock's size on your Mac

You can adjust the size of the dock so that icons are larger or smaller on your screen.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop down menu.

    Click the Apple icon, then select System Preferences

  3. Click on Dock.
  4. Drag the Size slider to the left or right to increase or decrease the size of the Dock.

    Click Dock, then drag the size slider to resize

  5. Tick the box for Magnification to enable an animation that makes the items in the Dock that your cursor hovers over larger.
  6. Drag the Magnification slider to the left or right to increase or decrease how large the icons grow when your cursor hovers over them.

    Tick the box for Magnification, then drag the slider to make the magnification larger or smaller

How to change the Dock's orientation on your Mac

You can display the Dock on the bottom, right, or left side of your screen.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop down menu.

    Click the Apple icon, then select System Preferences

  3. Click on Dock.
  4. Select Left, Bottom, or Right to change the orientation of the Dock.

    Click Dock, then select an orientation from left, bottom, or right

How to automatically hide or show the Dock on your Mac

On smaller laptop screens, every bit of screen space is valuable. If you don't want the Dock getting in the way of your productivity, you can keep it hidden until you want to access it, at which point, you can call it back up by hovering your cursor over the place where it normally resides.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop down menu.

    Click the Apple icon, then select System Preferences

  3. Click on Dock.
  4. Tick the box for Automatically hide and show the Dock.

    Click Dock, then tick the box for  hide Dock

Bonus: Pro tips for using the Dock

  • You can change the size of the Dock by positioning the cursor over the Dock divider that separates apps from files and folders. The cursor will change to a double-sided arrow; click and drag to increase or decrease the size of the Dock.

  • You can change the location of the Dock by holding down the shift key, clicking on that divider, and dragging the Dock to the left, bottom, or right sides of the screen.

  • If you'd like to keep an app that's open in the Dock permanently, right or control-click the icon in the Dock, select Options and select Keep in Dock.

  • If you want to add spacers between apps, there's a Terminal command to do so.

Peter Cohen contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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