Adding some Spice to your Dock

by Milind Alvares

Adding some Spice to your Dock

by Milind Alvares on May 16, 2009

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spice-dockThe Dock. One of the most defining user interface elements of the Mac. It stares at us all day, ready to serve, without question or doubt, or even mercy perhaps. So how can we change it then? Since the Dock went 3D with Leopard, it has grabbed a lot of attention from the theming community. Now I won’t go through basic customizations that you can do using the System Preferences, you can look at those at your leisure. These are hacks that Apple doesn’t include in the preferences, but are natively available via terminal commands and such.

Changing the theme

The most drastic change you can apply is a new dock theme. Head over to Leopard Docks or Dockulicious, or even our Flickr gallery and find yourself a nice dock theme. Changing the Dock theme without a third party app like Dockulicious or Candybar is a little tricky, but it’s my preferred method.

Navigate to Macintosh HD » System » Library » CoreServices. In this folder, right click on and select “Duplicate”. This ensures that you can revert to your old dock if you somehow mess it up. Then, right-click on and select “Show Package Contents”. Go into Contents » Resources. You can then paste in all the files from a Dock theme you have downloaded in this folder. You will need to authenticate it using your admin/password. Next, open up the and enter ‘killall Dock’ and hit enter. That should relaunch your dock with the new theme applied.


Just so you’re able to troubleshoot, here’s the files you need to replace. Indicator_x.png files are for the dock indicators. The scurve_x.png files are the dock background colour. The separator.png is the little strip that divides the dock into Applications and Stacks.

Adding a Spacer

Have you ever wanted to organise your dock better, but found it just next to impossible? Well how about adding spacers so you can group your apps better.


Merely add this command into your terminal (txt file). Then enter “killall Dock” and you’ll find an empty space somewhere in your Dock. You can drag that space around, and treat it as if it were just another app. You can add more spaces by repeating those steps, and if you need to remove it, just drag it off the dock. (via Mac OS X Hints)

Hide the Dock and Menubar

There are a few apps that have a sort of windowed mode, where everything is contained within the app. Lightroom, Aperture, a Fluid app, to name a few. There are others where you would want the maximum space available. Here’s a trick that will let you hide the menubar and Dock, whenever you select one of those apps.

First backup your application. Next, right-click the app, and select “Show Package Contents”. Navigate into Contents. You will find an info.plist file here. You will need a plist file editor to make changes to this file. You can use Coda, TextMate, BBEdit, or install the Property List Inspector from the Apple Developer tools folder in the Mac OS X Leopard Disc.


Look through the app for LSUIElement or something like this among the tags. They’re in alphabetic order so it shouldn’t take long. Once you find something in L, paste this in.


Once you save the file and restart the application, the menubar and Dock will automatically hide whenever the app is selected. You can continue to access the menubar by moving your mouse up, and the Dock by moving the mouse pointer down, but overall this will give you a feeling of space for moving around your app. (via Mac OS X Hints)

Pin your Dock to the left or right

I’m sure you know you can align the dock vertically along the left and right sides of the screen. That’s easy. What if you wanted to instead move the dock from the center of the screen to the left or right edge, while keeping it vertical? Yes, there’s a Terminal command for that.

defaults write pinning -string start

Kill the dock and it will position itself at the left edge of your screen. Change the last word ‘start’ to ‘middle’ or ‘end’ to bring it back to the center or move it to the right, respectively.

Moving apps off the dock

If you have an app that includes a menubar option, or you don’t really need to interact with it after launching, you could try DockDodger. Simply drag in any app into its window and it will edit the app to make it a dockless app. If you don’t want to use DockDodger, you can manually edit the app. Open the application’s plist file just as you did for the menubar hide trick, and locate the LSUIElement key. Change the value of the string from 0 to 1. If you don’t find the key anywhere, add it in.  Make sure it’s in alphabetical order, so LS is before NSMain and such.


Note that this is known to cause issues with many apps. I tried this with Tweetie for instance, and the Tweetie menubar refused to show up with the app selected. I also have to re-add all my accounts every time I relaunch.  I did however memorize the shortcuts, so I’m happy using it just from the menubar.

Enabling the ‘suck’ effect

If you’re tired of the ‘genie’ effect, and aren’t too keen on the slightly boring ‘Scale’ effect, there’s a secret effect that’s been under the hood since the beginning of time. It’s called the ‘suck’ effect. To enable it just enter into the Terminal app:

defaults write mineffect suck

Kill the Dock and minimize a window to see the new effect. If you want to revert to the Genie or Scale, just go into your Dock preferences and change it.

I hope you find some of these tips useful. Remember to back up your files before attempting to do any of this, for I forgo any responsibility for any mishaps. With that disclaimer aside, nothing should go wrong though.

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