Improving the Dock (a little bit)

As Bruce Tognazinni rightly points out, “Apple Sales is in love with the Dock”. He points out many (specifically 9) problems with the OS X Dock but, contrary to his original stance, believes that the Dock should be kept in place, but supplemented with “serious, information-dense tools”. I do agree with the Tog, but at least there is the consolation that at least a few third parties stepped in to help out.

Anyway, I was thinking about how Apple could possibly add functionality to the Dock, but at the same time keep Apple Sales happy and leave the Dock with its current simplicity and aesthetic appeal. And here are a couple of my ideas (excuse the abysmal Photoshopping):

This shows a sub-menu of the window menu item in Safari’s Dock menu. I’ve always thought of tabs as sub-windows and I think it’s a shame they’re not treated as such by Exposé and the Dock. Programs that currently use tabs include pretty much every web browser, Adium, TextMate, iTerm, Preview1 and Pathfinder.

Pre-release screenshots of Leopard show that both iChat and Terminal will join this ensemble in the coming months. So maybe it would make sense for Apple to have a bit of a think about tabs and produce some crazy mash up of NSTabView and NSWindow, such that each instance of “NSTabViewWindow” could advertise its tabs to Exposé and the Dock. I don’t know – I’m not a programmer. But I am a user, and I think this would be a sweet bit of functionality for OS X to gain.

A similar menu could appear when a user right-clicked a tabbed, minimised window. Possibly even showing a graphical representation of the contents of each tab, which leads me neatly on to my next idea…

I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. This window selection interface would appear upon mousing over the Dock icon of a running program, revealing all of its available windows in a ⌘-tab-style interface. Clicking on one would bring it to the front, un-hiding the application if necessary.

So that’s all the images for now. However, I would also like to add two extra features to the Dock that I didn’t feel required a illustration:

1. Allow minimised windows to be closed through their contextual menus (in programs other than the Finder!)
2. Allow for persistent app-specific contextual menu items (e.g. it would be nice if the list of Pref panes in System Preference’s context menu were still there even when System Preferences wasn’t open)

I’m sure there are many many other enhancements (including spring loaded folders – apparently coming in Leopard) that could be made, but I reckon these would be a great start.

1Kind of. If you open multiple images in Preview at the same time, they are “quasi-tabbed” in the drawer at the side of the Preview window.

One thought on “Improving the Dock (a little bit)

  1. I always wanted multiple docks, left, right, and bottom, all on autohide. I’ve tried dock-it, dock fun, drag thing, and dock swap (back in 10.1), but none had the elegance or simplicity.

    It’d be sorta silly now with Spaces coming in Leopard, but it’s still something I’d like.

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