I am relatively new to Mac and OS X (4 months now). While I build my collection of preferred applications my Dock keeps on growing. It now takes about 70% of my screen width and I start to find it a bit messy. I like to keep things organised and was wondering what are common practices to do so?

I know some people organise apps in folders by category/type, but how do I do it actually?

How is the icon for such a folder selected? Can I customise it?

PS. Screenshots are welcome.
PS2. If you have any recommendations of icon sources for organising Apps into folders, that'd be helpful, too.

  • 2
    I'd highly recommend using a dedicated app launcher like LaunchBar, Quicksilver, or Alfred rather than launching apps from the dock. You can hide the dock and reclaim the screen real-estate to boot. – michaelmichael Jun 29 '11 at 20:20
  • There is also the "Recent Items" menu that can be set in the System Preferences to remember so many applications, up to 50. I keep only those core ones I need in my Dock for easy access and let the Recent Menu list the past 50 I have used. – Philip Regan Jun 29 '11 at 20:41

There are lots of little application launcher utilities available, to name two Overflow and the venerable DragThing.

Personally, I prefer keyboard-based launchers like Alfred or LaunchBar.

OS X Lion will have feature called Launchpad which looks like it will be a good replacement to the dock for launching applications.

Organizing Apps in the Finder or launching them all via the Dock is rather futile, in my opinion — unless you have a very small collection of Applications…

If you're looking for folder icons, there are tons of online sources. I recommend the Iconfactory to start.

Customization: in the Finder if you use the Command Get Info in the file menu on a selected folder (also available in the right-click contextual menu), you can select the icon in the info window top-left. From there you can copy the icon resources and paste them.

So that's how you can customize the folders, copy icons from a downloaded folder source, and paste them into your new folders. Panic software produces an excellent Application for icon management that can also streamline this process called CandyBar.


What I do is remove everything from your dock, but for a very few essentials.

The only things I keep in my Dock at all times is the "Download" folder. When I need to start an app, I use Spotlight. I don't mean, or want, to turn this into a Spotlight vs Quicksilver vs Butler debate -it's just what works for me.

Now, in actuality, I do have icons on my Dock often, since I always have Terminal and Safari open, along with things like the Finder and Trash (which are always there.)

I find it simple, quick (Spotlight is faster than mousing to the Dock) and tidy.

Good luck in finding something that works for you.


My solution was to put an alias for all the applications that I wanted into a folder. Afterwards open finder and drag the folder icon from the finder window onto the Dock. To remove just drag the folder off the Dock. Clicking on the folder will open a quick display of all the aliases. The aliases take up very little space and leave all the applications in the application folder where they belong.

To answer your question on changing folder icons, there are a great many ways to do this, but the easiest is to click the folder, hit [apple] + [i] to open the info window, and in the top left corner will be the icon. Click on that and hit [apple] + [v] to paste in the desired image. apple's informative howto.

image of open folder


I like to group my apps by task or use (i.e. Xcode near Textmate and Pandora near iTunes), and separate the groups with empty spaces.

To add empty spaces, run this command:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add ‘{ “tile-type” = “spacer-tile”; }’

To add empty spaces to the document side (right side if your Dock is on the bottom), replace persistent-apps with persistent-others. You can also add more "recent items" stacks (so you can have one set to recent applications, another set to recent documents, etc.) by using:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'


I'm using $HOME/Applications folder as a launcher. In this folder i was make several subfolders with names like "Browsers", "Internet", "Office", "Productivity", "Imaging" "Sysadmin" etc...

When installing applications every app going into its default location "/Applications".

From the default place I was linked with symbolic links (or aliases) the apps from /Applications into correct subfolder. I'm doing this every time when i'm installing new apps. Not as time-consuming as one can thing at the first reading.

With this approach i got an nicely sorted-list as want it myself, without need using any 3rd party application. When you drag the $HOME/Applications into the dock, you should set the view as "List", and will get something like the attached screenshot. (the Windows7 applications are from the Parallels)

Some other things:

  • Long time i was used the dock on the right side of the screen. IMHO, it is the best location, because you need the every pixel of vertical size. On the right size you must not hide the dock. I was moved the dock to the default bottom location when i started using two displays and my second display comes into the right side...

  • at the bottom is a good practice using Dock autohide.

  • keep in the dock the most frequently used apps. (i have 27) ;)

  • i don't using the download folder in the dock, because my Safari make date based download folders anyway. Using Safari's "Downloads" window for the quick access.

  • Lion's launchad will change things again, so you can wait a few weeks for it... ;)

enter image description here


If you're really worried about your screen real estate my first sugestion is to just hide the dock. That way you can access it if you need it but it doesn't take up space. As for keeping things off of it, placing an application in a folder and then dragging that folder to the right of the dashed line on the dock creates a stack. You can right click and customize the options on the stack, but it should handle itself just fine. If you don't want to move your applications around inside the actual folder in Finder, right click the ones you want to be in your stack and select 'Make Alias' and drag the alias to a folder and then make that folder into a stack just like before. I understand why people want to keep their dock simple but personally I just leave what I use the most on there and then some things that get used occasionally. You don't lose that much screen space to it and that way you can get at everything quickly if you don't want to use Spotlight/Quicksilver/Butler.

Keep in mind that even if you take items off your dock and then launch them with one of the launcher apps, they pop right back onto the dock while you have them open.

Short answer is to hide the dock and not lose any sleep over what is actually on it.


I personally don't have anything on the left side of the Dock (Except finder!). I use Launchbar and only see the apps I have open on the Dock. That way I know what I am running at all times :)

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