Thanks to the handy mac dock at the bottom of your Mac desktop, your favorite programs, files, and folders are never more than a click away—and once you know what you’re doing, you can make the mac dock behave practically any way you want.

Indeed, you can expand, shrink, move, and otherwise tweak the Mac’s desktop dock in just a few steps, as well as rearrange your dock items, access programs shortcuts from the various dock icons, and more.

1. Move icons out of—or into—the mac dock

Nope, you don’t have to be stuck with the default array of icons that Apple puts in the dock of a brand-new Mac.

mac dock - 8 ways to make the mac dock work for you -- remove an icon

Don’t want an icon in the Mac desktop dock? Just drag it out.

If you don’t want, say, the Reminders icon wasting space in the dock, just click and hold its icon with your mouse, drag it out until a “Remove” bubble appears, release the mouse, and poof! The icon will disappear in a puff of digital smoke. (In case you’re wondering, this doesn’t delete the program itself, only its dock icon.)

Want to add an icon for a program, a file, or even a folder to the dock? Just drag it in.

To make a program’s icon stay in the dock even when it’s not running, right-click its dock icon, then select the Keep in Dock option.

Last but not least, you can rearrange your mac dock icons any way you want (well, except for the immovable Finder and Trash icons). Just click and hold the icon you want to move, then slide it left or right.

2. Make the mac dock bigger or smaller

Want to boost the size of the mac dock, or shrink it down to size? No problem. With your mouse, click and hold the razor-thin separator between the app and folder icons in the dock (it’s usually sitting near the right end), then drag it up to expand the dock or down to shrink it.

You can also adjust the size of the dock from your Mac’s System Preferences panel. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, select System Preferences, click the dock icon, then move the Size slider back and forth.

3. Move the entire mac dock to the left or right side of the screen

Who says the mac dock needs to sit at the bottom of the screen? Nobody, really—and indeed, moving the entire dock to the left or right side of your Mac’s display is a snap.

mac dock - 8 ways to make the mac dock work for you. Move the Mac dock to the left side of the screen

You can move the Mac dock to the left or right side of the screen.

Just go back to the dock control panel in System Preferences (click the Apple menu, select System Preferences, and click the dock icon), then select “Left,” “Right,” or “Bottom” under the “Position on screen” section.

4. Keep the mac dock icons from zooming up

When you move your mouse across the dock, the various icons will expand and then shrink as the cursor passes over them. It’s one of those nifty Mac visual effects—well, nifty or irritating, depending on your point of view.

Want the dock icons to stay still rather than zoom? Go to the dock preferences panel (Apple menu, System Preferences, Dock), then uncheck the box next to “Magnification.”

Another option is to leave the Magnification box checked but adjust the slider to reduce the dock’s “zoomage” level.

5. Hide the mac dock

You can play peek-a-boo with the dock by checking the “Automatically hide & show the Dock” setting in the dock control panel.

Just check the box, and the dock will disappear from the screen until you move your mouse to the bottom of your desktop.

6. Nix the “genie” effect

By default, any app window that you minimize into the dock will essentially “pour” itself into the dock thanks to a groovy animation, or fly back out of the dock like a genie from a bottle.

mac dock - 8 ways to make the mac dock work for you. Mac desktop dock preferences panel

You can tweak all kinds of dock settings from the Dock preferences pane.

Yep, it’s yet another of the Mac’s little visual touches, but you can opt for a speedier, more basic animation by selecting “Scale” from the “Minimize window using” drop-down menu in the dock preferences panel (Apple menu, System Preferences, Dock).

7. Hide a program

You can keep a program running but hide all its windows from your desktop by right-clicking its dock icon and selecting Hide.

To reveal a hidden program’s windows again, just click its icon in the Dock, or right-click its icon and select Show.

8. Right-click to compose an email, play music, and more

Right-clicking a program icon in the Dock will often reveal handy, time-saving shortcuts. For example…

  • To spawn a new browser window in Safari, just right-click Safari’s Dock icon and select “New Window.”
  • Want to compose a new message in Mail? Right-click the Mail icon in the Dock and select “Compose New Message”—or, if you like, select “Get New Mail” to check your email accounts or “New Viewer Window” to open a fresh Mail interface.
  • Meanwhile, the Dock icon for iTunes gives you all kinds of options, from teeing up a recently played song to skipping and pausing your tunes.
  • Right-click the Trash icon to empty the Mac’s trash bin.
  • Finally, right-click the Finder icon (it’s the one on the left side of the Dock—and no, unfortunately, you can’t move it or hide it) to open a new Finder window or search your hard drive.

Want to find more right-click Dock shortcuts? Just keep clicking.

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