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Leopard Dock

The Leopard Dock shows folders as a layer of icons, which is crazy for folders as you cannot easily recognize a folder based on its contents. Especially crazy when the folders have recognizable icons already!

Of course, here at Stairways we prefer to find solutions to problems rather than just grumble, so here is a trivial solution. Simply create an alias to the folder, name it to sort as the first icon, and put it in the folder.

We‘ll use the Applications folder as an example. First, open the Applications folder, then command-up arrow to get to the parent folder. Select the Applications folder and option-command-drag to your Desktop to make an alias. Rename the alias to add a space or two at the start of the name. Now drag that alias into the Applications folder (you will need to authenticate). Done. Now the dock Applications folder looks like it should, ie like an Applications folder with applications inside it.

When doing this, make sure you rename the alias before moving it in to the Applications folder - the Finder will ask for authentication to move the item in, or to delete it, but will simply refuse to allow it to be renamed.

Hopefully Apple will come to its senses and add the folder icon to the top of the displayed stack, but in the mean time, this is an easy trick to fix it yourself.

Posted Saturday, November 3, 2007. Permalink. 27 Comments.


If you're not in love with Stacks, you can also just create an alias to your target folder, then drag that alias to the Dock. The Dock entry will contain the correct icon; clicking it opens the target folder in a new Finder window.

I actually find myself preferring this anyway.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 02:28 PM by Dylan F.

The "alias arrow" is a little annoying, but it's clearly better than not having the folder icon at all.

Thank you :-)

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 02:35 PM by Louis.

Nice trick. I really really wish we had the possibility to display 1) the custom icon of the folders and 2) the hierarchical menus, with navigations on these icons in the Dock. Some people might find the new Fan display pretty, but I find it to be a loss of functionality - and a serious one.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 02:51 PM by Corentin.

Good idea, but it breaks at least one useful feature: the Downloads stack is sorted by Date Added, so that the most recently downloaded item is closest to the Dock when you click on the stack. Makes for a nice easy 1-2 click to access the thing you just downloaded. No such luck if you pull this trick.

Anyway, that's just one little gotcha, and many people don't even like the Downloads folder. I agree with the overall sentiments and otherwise I like the idea.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 02:53 PM by Kevin Miller.

It is nicer if you create a blank text file, rename it as 00(or whatever).app

Then Command-I the applications folder, select the icon in the top left hand corner. Command-C. Command-I the and Click the icon once again. This time Command-V. This will replace the icon in the (fake) app to that of the Apps folder.

I prefer this as it doesn't leave the nast Alias arrow in the corner!

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:01 PM by Balazs.

Neat trick...not that you can easily recognize the Applications folder very easily by its grey embossed icon, but that's more of a complaint than a solution, eh?

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:08 PM by n[ate]vw.

I'm hoping they come to their senses and allow you to just see the folder and perhaps a folder preference to open it as a stack or as a normal folder.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:33 PM by David.

wow, an old Classic tip (this was a common method of sorting items in the Apple menu) comes back to haunt OS X.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:42 PM by jonhohle.

Great trick, but the alias arrow is still there and the old terminal command for removing alias icons no longer works. Sad face.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:42 PM by Anonymous Noel Coward.

Nice trick, but the user will have trouble trying to do this for his Home folder as several of the File menu items are disabled when you are looking at a Finder window representing the Users folder.

So if you're like me and want to have your Home folder represented in the Dock with the house icon, you need to fire up a Terminal session. Presumably that puts you in your Home directory immediately, but if not, then cd there. Then enter

ln -s . ' Home'

Et voila.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 03:52 PM by rbs.

I set up my dock folders like this last week and I wonder how many old Mac users figured this one out fairly quickly. It's a fairly common trick to sort items to the top of folder list.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 04:40 PM by Paul Turnbull.

Good tip. The behavior of the default Stacks is crazy. I can't believe in all the testing that no-one at Apple thought "Hmmm, maybe it could be visually confusing if the Applications Stack looks just like the Address Book"

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 04:48 PM by GadgetGav.

Bahh... the Dock has always been useless for organising anything than running applications, so I for one am not using it to organise files on the file system.

That's what DragThing is for!

Apple have taken off the most useful feature of navigating folders that are docked: contextual menus showing the filesystem path inside the folder. If I were to put my UI hat on, I'd get the Dock to reveal the contents of the folder you have just clicked on inside the currently displayed stack, along with a new stack item that allows you to traverse back up the folder up to the stack's starting point (like a "back" button in a browser, so as not to be fooled by symlinks and aliases).

Unfortunately, I have the feeling that stacks assume that everything is going to be contained in the one folder, which is most often never the case! If that were true, I'd still be using DOS 3.3 floppies on an Apple II computer, or the MFS filesystem on a Macintosh 128K!

Despite Apple's (and more or less, the industry's) fixation on having people _search_ for their information rather than organising it, I say that the former techniques of information management are being discarded to the detriment of users who are in a better position of organising their own information. And the Dock seems to steer users to that frame of mind, which I personally do not prefer to venture.

So for now, my only use of the Dock is as an application status indicator and convenience panel. It has lost in being a filesystem management tool.


Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 04:48 PM by Tony Kavadias.

yeah, but if you do this, you get the annoying side-effect of having a recursive alias. Why don't you just create a new, empty folder and call it " Applications", and copy/paste the icon of the main App folder into the new folder.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 05:21 PM by joe.

This exposes an interesting bug in the Finder column view. Each time you click on the alias it opens a new column of that folder. No matter which column you click in, the preview shows up in the last column.

Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 07:01 PM by Steve.

Regarding the problem of a recursive alias: I did this trick, making an alias of the Applications folder and then renaming it with a space in the beginning to make it appear first. The Dock stack works as intended, except with an extra useless folder at the beginning. But when I open the folder, I find it empty. I.e. Finder is not letting it be a recursive alias. Dunno if that's on purpose, or a bug, but there is is.

Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 11:23 AM by Anonymous.

I have been utterly bewildered at the number of people that have been using a docked application folder. There's probably forty or fifty better ways to launch applications, and not all of them are keyboard shortcuts (like QuickSilver, Spotlight, LaunchBar, Cmd-Shift-A, etc.) Seriously, relying on the mouse (and further, relying on icon recognition) for something you do as frequently as launching applications is just strange. Sorry for how that sounds, but please take it as a suggestion. Work with the system before hacking around it.

Posted Thursday, November 8, 2007 09:46 PM by Two Hundred Cents.

Better yet (though you will have to deal with the alias arrows), just drag the default icons out of the dock altogether, eliminating the stacks. Then make an alias to your folders, and put them wherever you want. Drag them into the dock. Now they will open as normal folders.

The "Downloads" folder won't bounce at completion though, so you may want to leave that in there, or put the alias next to it. Another clumsy workaround to another stupid problem.

Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 08:49 PM by Anonymous.

While the functionality of the dock has changed, I don't have much of a problem with it, as I have not used it as a repository for folders, other than as for downloads and for a small folder of frequently used documents. A couple ways around this change is to use either DragThing. I use the drawer mode and have one set up with nothing but folders, and they are all hierarchical. Another option is to use MaxMenus. It puts a hot spot in any corner of the screen you choose. You can drag files to the hot spot and traverse the hierarchy, dropping the file wherever you like. You can find a file the same way.

Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 04:22 AM by RayCon.

I miss my apps folder in the Dock. When you have 50+ apps with older versions nested in subfolders, it's nice to have quick access to them. Why the "Folder" view isn't an option in the "View As ->" menu item for Docked folders ... I have no idea.

Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 07:27 AM by theed.

This exposes an interesting bug in the Finder column view.


Posted Sunday, November 25, 2007 12:44 AM by Baldur.

The problem with aliases in the Dock is not only that they don't bring back hierarchical menus, but that you can't even drop files on them, let alone get them to 'spring-load' open, as real folders now do in Leopard's Dock. . .

I wonder if the UNIX equivalent 'symbolic link' would behave any differently?

Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 07:52 AM by Anonymous.

Oh yes, and I'm one of those strange people that uses a Docked Application folder - and why is that so strange? it is one fixed-target icon in the Dock that gives me access to 200+ app's, more than half of which are in sub-folders.

I also use the Docked folder for manually viewing and organizing most of my files - Documents, Audio plug-ins, a 'List' view of the Desktop, Pictures as well as a massive audio library - and just relying on iTunes is really no substitute for manual organization when you need to selectively process and edit files. Manual organization is safer, more reliable and faster in the long run - especially when the file names may not resemble the meta data name.

Hey Apple, how about more options in the Show Columns of View Options - like show audio, photo or video meta data?

Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 08:01 AM by Anonymous.

"I can't believe in all the testing that no-one at Apple thought "Hmmm, maybe it could be visually confusing if the Applications Stack looks just like the Address Book"

I agree! And conversely, if they had completely followed through with this change, why doesn't the Trash show the icon of the first item in the trash (alphabetically) or the last item thrown into the trash? Come on Apple! Stacks work well for Downloads, but not for the Home folder or the Application folder.

Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 01:46 PM by Anonymous.

The latest updates have corrected this.

Now you can control click on your Applications folder alias in the dock, select Display As Folder. The alias arrow goes away, and your folder icon is displayed. It works perfectly.

Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 09:20 AM by Anonymous.

How about just selecting "Display as folder" in the context menu. That also creates the folder icon that looks like the application folder should. Try this with the Home folder as well. It still fans out like a stack, but the icon changes to the House.

Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 12:57 AM by Adam Hill.

Sorry, stopped reading too early.

Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 12:58 AM by Adam Hill.

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