: The Dock

29 Jan 2004 - 7:19pm
10 years ago
3 replies
319 reads
Nathan Vincent
2004

Ok... What is it that makes The Dock actually good? I mean *good*, not
just "people can use it because we aren't all morons"...

--
Nathan Vincent
Infosys Technologies Australia
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
+61.3.8664.6146

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Comments

4 Feb 2004 - 3:23pm
cfmdesigns
2004

Nathan Vincent <Nathan.Vincent at expert.com> writes:

>Ok... What is it that makes The Dock actually good? I mean *good*, not
>just "people can use it because we aren't all morons"...

The tight packing of items. To get that tight of packing on the
desktop or in a folder, I have to turn off the grid, which means I
lose the consistency of location I get with a grid.

The relative placement of items stays consistent, whether the exact
location remains constant or not. (That is, the Trash is always at a
known relative location -- end of the Dock -- and you know that App2
is between App1 and App3, since you put them there.) Compare to
trying to find an app in the Applications folder or other listing,
where the addition of things to the system disrupts placement and you
may have to open folders and such to get to the app itself.

Easy access to actions like Quit/Force Quit, list of open windows,
etc. Better than things were in OS 9 or on Windows.

It's there with *every* system. It's not an add-on which needs to be
download or even an extra which needs to be activated.

It is customizable: size, location, behavior. Users have to choose
to do this, admittedly, but Tog's Issue #9 makes the size issue
bigger (ahem) than it really is, I think. (I match my Dock size to
that of my desktop icons.)

I first started using the Dock back in the NeXT days, and I found it
then to be vastly better than other options I had available; the
current one is, in several directions, an improvement over that.

I used the Launcher in OS 9 and before and relished many things about
it, especially the different panels which allowed me to have multiple
sets of icons available. (It left some things to be desired,
though.) I tried DragThing, but it was never as efficient for me as
Launcher, and when I switched to OS X, I found DockFun!, which
grafted some of the qualities from those apps that I liked onto the
Dock.

I don't use only the Dock, though. I keep desktop shortcuts handy
and even a couple folders containing special shortcuts to server
locations and such.

I watch Windows users -- both home and office -- and I'm often amazed
that they can get anything done. Many of them have 20-30 or more
shortcuts on their desktop -- unaligned, ungrouped, sometimes
overlapping -- a jumble of apps and docs and web aliases, and to
launch an app, they click on a button and then maneuver through a
maze of cascading menus, often having to back up and re-wend their
way. Versus something like that, even the assorted flaws in the Dock
pale against the value it brings.

Jim Drew
Seattle, WA

4 Feb 2004 - 5:56pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Feb 4, 2004, at 12:23 PM, Jim Drew wrote:

> The tight packing of items. To get that tight of packing on the
> desktop or in a folder, I have to turn off the grid, which means I
> lose the consistency of location I get with a grid.

This is actually one of my gripes about the dock. I often accidentally
click the wrong icon just a wee bit to the left or right side and find
I inadvertently launch a new app instead of switch to the one I wanted.
Launching a new apps sucks down serious computing cycles. This doesn't
happen in Windows because the taskbar only shows you currently open
windows.

> The relative placement of items stays consistent, whether the exact
> location remains constant or not. (That is, the Trash is always at a
> known relative location -- end of the Dock -- and you know that App2
> is between App1 and App3, since you put them there.) Compare to
> trying to find an app in the Applications folder or other listing,
> where the addition of things to the system disrupts placement and you
> may have to open folders and such to get to the app itself.

I agree, but in Windows, you can just use the QuickLaunch area for the
same thing, which has been available on that system since 1998 or 1999.
The benefit the QL area has is that icons are not clustered together
with normal content so you hardly ever inadvertently do what I mention
above.

> Easy access to actions like Quit/Force Quit, list of open windows,
> etc. Better than things were in OS 9 or on Windows.

Sure. I can buy that. Of course... the fact you need to use Force Quit
at all seems to be the real problem, not finding where the command for
it is. Windows has had the list of Open windows and clusters items
together as an option as of WinXP.

> It's there with *every* system. It's not an add-on which needs to be
> download or even an extra which needs to be activated.

Ok... but how is that different or better than other systems? I'm not
sure what real benefit this is.

> It is customizable: size, location, behavior. Users have to choose to
> do this, admittedly, but Tog's Issue #9 makes the size issue bigger
> (ahem) than it really is, I think. (I match my Dock size to that of
> my desktop icons.)

The taskbar in Windows adjust its size based on font size, which I find
a better rule to follow than icon size. But that would require the Dock
to use text labels. So the resizable nature of the Dock is lost on me
since I never change it. However, I would prefer to see Apple give the
Dock the option of paying attention to my display size, so when I
unhook my Powerbook from my work station, the Dock readjusts to be
smaller on that smaller screen. As it stands, on my 1600 x 1200 screen,
the Dock stays small because I have no desire to spend time every
morning readjusting it and then switching it back manually at night
when I go home.

> I first started using the Dock back in the NeXT days, and I found it
> then to be vastly better than other options I had available; the
> current one is, in several directions, an improvement over that.

That's all fine and good for NeXT users, but what about us legacy Mac
OS users and people who used the Taskbar in Windows? The thing I find
maddening with Apple and the Dock is that they had all the data
available to them about what worked on the Mac OS, and then there are
very legitimate things that do work in the Taskbar in Windows. The
NeXT dock also had interesting ideas, so why not take the best of all
them and move much farther forward? When Mac OS X came out, they seem
to completely ignore the Taskbar and Mac OS models of interaction, and
just sort of spiffy up the NeXT dock. Had they done more with using the
best of everything out there, the Dock would have been a leap light
years past the old Mac OS interaction and made Microsoft looked bad.
All the Dock is nowadays is a fancier looking Taskbar with no text
labels and little puffs of clouds that go "poof" when you drag stuff
off of it.

> I don't use only the Dock, though. I keep desktop shortcuts handy and
> even a couple folders containing special shortcuts to server locations
> and such.

Which don't help very much while you are using five other apps that all
have lots and lots of windows covering your desktop. (In Mac OS 9, you
made Aliases and put them in the Apple folder for access past this
problem. In the Dock, you can sort of do the same thing, but the jumble
and groupings of icons makes the mental model a bit harder to parse.)
One of the nice things on Windows is the Desktop icon, which close
everything down to show you the desktop.

> I watch Windows users -- both home and office -- and I'm often amazed
> that they can get anything done. Many of them have 20-30 or more
> shortcuts on their desktop -- unaligned, ungrouped, sometimes
> overlapping -- a jumble of apps and docs and web aliases, and to
> launch an app, they click on a button and then maneuver through a maze
> of cascading menus, often having to back up and re-wend their way.
> Versus something like that, even the assorted flaws in the Dock pale
> against the value it brings.

I agree the nested menus are awful on Windows. I also agree there's
much to dislike about the Taskbar. But given the two evils, I would
take the Taskbar over the Dock at this stage. The next time I click the
Photoshop icon by accident when I meant to click Illustrator, and then
have to deal with the chug of the app launch bringing my machine to a
crawl, I might just have to break something.

BTW, I often see Mac OS users with cluttered desktops and shortcuts as
well. that little criticism is hardly applicable to the design of the
Dock. Messy users are messy users, regardless of Mac or Windows use.

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

4 Feb 2004 - 6:41pm
Nathan Vincent
2004

Ok, for a start, I use a PC at work on a 1600 x 1200 monitor, and a 17"
Powerbook at home. On Mac OSX, I use LaunchBar to open apps. I keep
absolutely nothing in my Dock. With LaunchBar, no app is ever really
more than 3 key strokes away. No scrubbing around, trying to remember
where a particular app is, or what it's supposed to look like at 48x48px
or whatever. I can understand that this isn't a solution for everybody,
or even many I suppose, but it highlights an issue that I believe to be
fundamental: when I want to open Photoshop (for eg), my mind basically
says "Open Photoshop". The task is centered around the word "Photoshop".
So I type cmd+space, "PS" (which for people who aren't familiar with
LaunchBar, is basically how you use it).

To use the dock as it's apparently intended, I need to mentally say that
"I want to open Photoshop", then I need to focus on the bottom of the
screen, try and remember what Photoshop looks like (was it a white
square with a green feather, or a pink flower, or a butterfly or
something), whilst at the same time scanning a long row of pretty
pictures... Is this it? Nope. Is this it? Nope... It's not until I find
the correct pretty picture that my original goal, the word "Photoshop"
is reunited with my actions.

Now, I don't want to come across like salesman for a little shareware
app, or take away from the merits of the visual aspect of computing. So
to contrast with my PC at work:

I have short cuts to frequent and some not so frequently used apps in
the left hand side of the Task bar (I apologise for not being 100% sure
of correct terminology regarding Windows). Anything so obscure that it
doesn't live there I can access 'the old way', using a fairly neatly
organised Start menu.

So:

Windows: anything that is in the task bar is OPEN. Open apps are grouped
together. Text labels are visible with no interaction. The position of
shortcuts to launch apps doesn't change at all. Not even '70px'. These
are also grouped together. There can be no mistaking a shortcut to open
an app, with a currently running app. AND, if all else fails, at least I
have a customisable menu that I can fall back on.
OS X: apps may or may not be open (although not in my case). The only
signifier is a tiny black triangle. Open apps and closed ones are meshed
together. The only way to tell (from the dock) is to scan, look for
triangles, mentally try and match the icon to the app, and if that
fails, scrub the area with you mouse until the app name appears. There
are no text labels, and NO customisable menu to launch apps from.

I could go on, and thanks for hearing me out. Please take the gloves off
if you violently disagree with me.

Nathan

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrei Herasimchuk [mailto:andrei at adobe.com]
Sent: Thursday, 5 February 2004 9:56 AM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com; Designers'
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] : The Dock

On Feb 4, 2004, at 12:23 PM, Jim Drew wrote:

> The tight packing of items. To get that tight of packing on the
> desktop or in a folder, I have to turn off the grid, which means I
> lose the consistency of location I get with a grid.

This is actually one of my gripes about the dock. I often accidentally
click the wrong icon just a wee bit to the left or right side and find
I inadvertently launch a new app instead of switch to the one I wanted.
Launching a new apps sucks down serious computing cycles. This doesn't
happen in Windows because the taskbar only shows you currently open
windows.

> The relative placement of items stays consistent, whether the exact
> location remains constant or not. (That is, the Trash is always at a
> known relative location -- end of the Dock -- and you know that App2
> is between App1 and App3, since you put them there.) Compare to
> trying to find an app in the Applications folder or other listing,
> where the addition of things to the system disrupts placement and you
> may have to open folders and such to get to the app itself.

I agree, but in Windows, you can just use the QuickLaunch area for the
same thing, which has been available on that system since 1998 or 1999.
The benefit the QL area has is that icons are not clustered together
with normal content so you hardly ever inadvertently do what I mention
above.

> Easy access to actions like Quit/Force Quit, list of open windows,
> etc. Better than things were in OS 9 or on Windows.

Sure. I can buy that. Of course... the fact you need to use Force Quit
at all seems to be the real problem, not finding where the command for
it is. Windows has had the list of Open windows and clusters items
together as an option as of WinXP.

> It's there with *every* system. It's not an add-on which needs to be
> download or even an extra which needs to be activated.

Ok... but how is that different or better than other systems? I'm not
sure what real benefit this is.

> It is customizable: size, location, behavior. Users have to choose to
> do this, admittedly, but Tog's Issue #9 makes the size issue bigger
> (ahem) than it really is, I think. (I match my Dock size to that of
> my desktop icons.)

The taskbar in Windows adjust its size based on font size, which I find
a better rule to follow than icon size. But that would require the Dock
to use text labels. So the resizable nature of the Dock is lost on me
since I never change it. However, I would prefer to see Apple give the
Dock the option of paying attention to my display size, so when I
unhook my Powerbook from my work station, the Dock readjusts to be
smaller on that smaller screen. As it stands, on my 1600 x 1200 screen,
the Dock stays small because I have no desire to spend time every
morning readjusting it and then switching it back manually at night
when I go home.

> I first started using the Dock back in the NeXT days, and I found it
> then to be vastly better than other options I had available; the
> current one is, in several directions, an improvement over that.

That's all fine and good for NeXT users, but what about us legacy Mac
OS users and people who used the Taskbar in Windows? The thing I find
maddening with Apple and the Dock is that they had all the data
available to them about what worked on the Mac OS, and then there are
very legitimate things that do work in the Taskbar in Windows. The
NeXT dock also had interesting ideas, so why not take the best of all
them and move much farther forward? When Mac OS X came out, they seem
to completely ignore the Taskbar and Mac OS models of interaction, and
just sort of spiffy up the NeXT dock. Had they done more with using the
best of everything out there, the Dock would have been a leap light
years past the old Mac OS interaction and made Microsoft looked bad.
All the Dock is nowadays is a fancier looking Taskbar with no text
labels and little puffs of clouds that go "poof" when you drag stuff
off of it.

> I don't use only the Dock, though. I keep desktop shortcuts handy and
> even a couple folders containing special shortcuts to server locations

> and such.

Which don't help very much while you are using five other apps that all
have lots and lots of windows covering your desktop. (In Mac OS 9, you
made Aliases and put them in the Apple folder for access past this
problem. In the Dock, you can sort of do the same thing, but the jumble
and groupings of icons makes the mental model a bit harder to parse.)
One of the nice things on Windows is the Desktop icon, which close
everything down to show you the desktop.

> I watch Windows users -- both home and office -- and I'm often amazed
> that they can get anything done. Many of them have 20-30 or more
> shortcuts on their desktop -- unaligned, ungrouped, sometimes
> overlapping -- a jumble of apps and docs and web aliases, and to
> launch an app, they click on a button and then maneuver through a maze

> of cascading menus, often having to back up and re-wend their way.
> Versus something like that, even the assorted flaws in the Dock pale
> against the value it brings.

I agree the nested menus are awful on Windows. I also agree there's
much to dislike about the Taskbar. But given the two evils, I would
take the Taskbar over the Dock at this stage. The next time I click the
Photoshop icon by accident when I meant to click Illustrator, and then
have to deal with the chug of the app launch bringing my machine to a
crawl, I might just have to break something.

BTW, I often see Mac OS users with cluttered desktops and shortcuts as
well. that little criticism is hardly applicable to the design of the
Dock. Messy users are messy users, regardless of Mac or Windows use.

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

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information. If you are not the intended recipient of this
message (or responsible for delivery of the message to
such person) you are hereby notified that any use,
dissemination, distribution or reproduction of this message
is prohibited. If you have received this message in error,
you should destroy it and kindly notify the sender by reply
e-mail. Please advise immediately if you or your employer
do not consent to Internet e-mail for messages of this kind.
Opinions, conclusions and other information in this
message that do not relate to the official business of
Infosys Technologies Australia Pty Ltd ABN 94 054 141 365
("The Company") shall be understood as neither
given nor endorsed by it.

The Company advises that this e-mail and any attached
files should be scanned to detect viruses. The Company
accepts no liability for loss or damage (whether caused
by negligence or not) resulting from the use of any
attached files.

The Company reserves the right to monitor and review
the content of all messages sent to or from this e-mail address.
Messages sent to or from this e-mail address may be stored on
The Company's e-mail system

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