Imperfect Dock

Brent Simmons recently wrote about his dislike of the iCal interface in the latest developer preview of OS X 10.7. In his article, he says how the torn paper present in the interface of the latest build would eventually force him to find an alternative, because he would always want to finish tearing the paper off. What caught my attention in the article more than iCal was how Brent deals with the Trash in the Dock. He constantly empties the trash, a habit I share.

The trash is actually part of a larger problem, the Dock itself. I’m never happy with where I have it. At times I have it hidden, sometimes I have it on the left, sometimes on the right. It is like an awkward sweater that doesn’t fit quite right. It provides enough functionality that I want it around, but not enough for it not to bother me when it is.

A large part of the problem is how much vertical space the Dock occupies. If the Dock stretches across the screen, then I feel that I have too many apps in the Dock and the bright and often contrasting colors distract me. If the Dock does not stretch across the screen, then I feel that I’m wasting the pixels to the left and right of the dock. Those pixels remain empty when an application is “zoomed” to maximum.

Moving the dock to the left or right solves the wasted pixels problem. But, then I have another problem, how best to access certain functions of the Dock, like the Trash, like the Finder, and like minimized windows. If an application has more than one window open, minimizing one of the windows puts it out of reach of command-tab. At this point I either have to go for the mouse, or I need to call Quicksilver and think through what command I need to call to bring that window back to the screen.

The Dock is an annoyance. It’s too big not to be annoying, but too useful to get rid of.