I’m not one usually complains about MacOS X, but today I was thinking more critically about how the Dock works and what functions it provides.

The Dock, as many of you know, has two parts. The application part is where you can define a set of frequently used applications you would like to have easy access to. The application part also shows you which applications are currently running and acts as a quick switcher. Then there is a user part where you can drag your own folders, files, and links. Also, if you minimize a window, it gets sucked into the user section of the doc.

The applications part of the Dock seems to work pretty well. It’s easy to customize which application icons you would like to have in there by default, and the Dock does a good job of showing which applications are open and any application activity (such as a dialog popping up in the background). The user part of the Dock, however, could use some major improvement. First, what relates the two primary purposes of the user section? Why does it hold minimized windows AND shortcuts to frequently used items? Then you have the trash can thrown in there seemingly because Apple didn’t know where else to put it (I’m not sure why the bottom corner of the desktop wasn’t a good place anymore).

The other thing that bugs me is how a folder shortcut acts when it is in the Dock. When you click on it briefly, it will open a Finder window with that directory. Now this makes some sense, but I never use the Dock in this manner. This action seems even less useful now that Finder windows have a sidebar in Panther. If you click and hold on the folder icon in the Dock, it will pop-up a menu with the items of that folder. Now I find this very useful, and it should be the default action of clicking on a Dock folder icon. Waiting for a pop-up to be displayed just makes the action take too long to be useful. I know you can right-click or control-click on the icon to get this action right away, but until I get a two button trackpad on my Powerbook, this is kind of inconvenient as well. I’m sure there are some people who would prefer the current behavior, so there should simply be an option in the Dock Preferences to configure this.

One thing I feel that the Dock is missing is a section to have Dock-only dynamic content. Currently, the only way to add dynamic content to the Dock is to create an application that draws in it’s own Dock icon. This is nice to have, but it could be a lot better. There should be a separate section in the Dock altogether for this type of application, and applications should be able to create multiple Dock icons. This is something that would be especially useful for an application like XRG. It would be great if I could take as many spaces as I wanted in the Dock and draw multiple graphs there instead of in a window.

Any comments from other users out there…maybe issues that I may have overlooked? Let me know in the writeback.