eXtensions - Tuesday 17 October 2017


System Preferences in macOS High Sierra: Dock

By Graham K. Rogers


Some of the panels in System Preferences remain unchanged in the update to macOS, High Sierra. The Dock preferences panel is for settings that affect operations of the Dock and its appearance. The interface design appears unchanged from before.

The Dock is the bar that displays application icons. It sits at the bottom or side of your screen and provides easy access to many of the installed apps. Some of those from Apple are in the Dock by default. Users can add apps, documents and folders to the Dock, too (Apple Support document HT201730). When an app not normally in the Dock is opened, it also appears there (until Quit).

Dock When the cursor is run over an app in the Dock a small panel shows the name of the application. Clicking on the app icon launches or displays (if already launched) the app. If the user clicks and holds on an app icon, a menu appears. The contents will depend on the app (and type of app) and if it is already open. An Options section has several choices, including Keep in Dock (or Remove from Dock), Open at Login, Show in Finder. A second part of the menu marked, Assign To, shows All Desktops, This Desktop, None.

The Dock can also be used for documents and other files, so clicking on these when in the Dock will display them in the correct application.

A divider line is located between the apps and folders/documents in the Dock. As the cursor nears the spot between the two parts, a double vertical arrow will appear: clicking on the line while pressing the Control key brings up a menu. Both the Dock and the menu appear different if the user has selected "Use dark menu bar and Dock" in the General preferences panel.

With High Sierra preferences, the single panel appears initially to have the same settings as it had in earlier versions of macOS and OS X. It provides ways to make adjustments to the Dock feature. In those earlier versions, some changes were made directly in the Dock by clicking on the divider line (towards the right side) and using the Control key. This is still possible. The divider is slightly more visible than before. Near the top of the preferences panel is a slider marked Size (Small to Large). Below this is a check box for Magnification. When this is selected, the adjacent slider (Min to Max) can increase or decrease the level of magnification of app icons in the Dock.

Three radio buttons are provided in the middle of the panel to position the Dock on the screen. The default is Bottom. Also available are Left or Right. Users who access tools at the bottom of a screen in an application (e.g. Final Cut Pro) may prefer the Dock to be positioned to one side.

A button below these three selectors is available to decide the effect used when a Window is minimized. The default is Genie effect, which makes a file appear to shrink as if it were going into a bottle-neck. The reverse happens when it is clicked in the Dock and becomes large again. The Scale effect uses less processing power and as the panel becomes smaller, the width and height are in proportion. Both effects may be slowed by pressing the Shift key at the same time.


Below the Minimize button is a feature that first appeared in Sierra: a button marked "Prefer tabs when opening documents". This has three options: In Full Screen Only (default), Always, and Manually.

The bottom of the panel has the same 5 checkboxes it has had for the last few versions of OS X and macOS. The last one had a small change to the text in Sierra:

  • Double-click a window's title bar. This is now controlled by a button that is live when the box is checked. There are now two options: zoom and minimize. As soon as this box is checked, the feature becomes available: no restarting is needed.

  • Minimize windows into application icon. With this checked, when a file is minimized it is not visible on the Dock as a separate file. When the application icon in the Dock is clicked, a list of files related to the application are shown. A minimized file is marked with a diamond.

  • Animate opening applications. When checked, an application that is started (whether permanently in the Dock or not) will bounce a number of times while opening. When unchecked, the icon remains still.

  • Automatically hide and show the Dock. When checked, the Dock appears from the bottom (or sides, if so located) as the cursor is moved near the edge of the screen. When this is unchecked, the Dock is visible at all times.

  • Show indicators for open applications. When an application is active, a small spot appears below the Dock icon (black by default, white when dark menus are used). When this is unchecked there is no indication in the Dock.

See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2017