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Is your Mac’s Dock cramped? Use Stacks to categorize app icons

Is your Mac\'s Dock cramped? Use Stacks to categorize app icons

The Dock is one of Mac OS X’s greatest features and sometimes we tend to love it so much that it gets packed full of application icons. Take advantage of Stacks in Leopard to give your Dock some breathing room.

So you’ve got a Dock that is packed to the brim and becoming so stuffed that it’s hard for you to quickly find the program you’re looking for. What are you to do? Remove some of the lesser used icons to free up space? Well, going into the Applications folder in Finder is a pain, so let’s avoid that. How about creating a single Stack in the Dock for your entire Applications folder? Almost, but it’s way too time consuming to navigate, especially if you have a lot of software installed.

Instead, why not categorize your application icons and create a Stack in the Dock for each group? This method gives you the best of all worlds — a Dock with less clutter and easy access to all of your important programs. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a new folder called Stacks in your user account directory. This is where Desktop, Documents, Movies, Music, etc. can be found.
  2. In the new Stacks directory, create additional folders for each app category you’d like to make a Stack for. For example, I’m grouping all of my Adobe, iWork, and iLife apps together. This way they take up only 3 spaces in the Dock instead of 15 or so.
  3. Open a second Finder window and navigate to Applications.
  4. Click and hold one of the programs you’d like to work with. Start dragging it from the Applications folder to your chosen Stacks category folder while holding down the Command and Option keys. Dropping the icon in the folder (with Command+Option held) will generate an alias for that program.
  5. Repeat step #4 for each application you want to categorize.
    Application Stacks in Leopard
  6. To actually turn these folders full of aliases into Stacks, select them (all together or individually) and drag them to your Dock. Stacks can be placed anywhere to the right of the dashed “crosswalk” and to the left of the Trash.

Ahh, doesn’t that feel better? Your Dock can breathe again and you can launch programs just as fast, if not faster, than before! If you really want to get fancy you can even check out our tutorial, “How to create & set your own custom Stacks icons in Leopard,” and take it one step further.

9 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

Great article, but one big error. In order to make an alias, drag the app while holding Option AND Command.

Thanks so much for the correction, Rick. You’re absolutely right. The post has been updated.

Thanks. I took a 10 year vacation from Macs (OS 7.5) and am just figuring things out again. This was what I was looking for.

Nice tip, and I like the “organization” of aliases in a Stacks folder – that’s a good idea.

At first I thought this would limit the ability to drag’n drop onto apps, and it does a little bit. One simply needs to drag the files(s) onto the stack folder in the dock, and wait for it to pop open. Then it is possible to choose an app.UNFORTUNATELY… this leaves a folder open every time :( I hope Apple at some point builds in the ability to stack apps with drag’n drop functionality, so the fan or grid closes itself afterwards.

Thanks – great article, worked first time & has made my dock so much nicer to work with.

Very helpful article. But to show the Alias with the correct icon in the dock I had to restart the Dock with:

killall -KILL Dock

Then it works fine!!!


Marjon van der Lande
November 30th, 2012, 12:53 AM

Brilliant! Exactly what I was looking for and did not find on the Apple support pages, maybe my bad. Anyway: great and thanks for sharing!

nice, but all open apps still show up in the main dock. having a lot of apps open still is cluttering my dock bar. anyway to hide the open apps?

This is not working for me, or at least
not working for applications like chrome and firefox