Chapter 3. Dock, Desktop, and Toolbar

You can’t help reacting, one way or another, to the futuristic, sleek, cool looks of Mac OS X the first time you arrive at its desktop. When you stop to think about it, the environment owes most of its distinctive, photo-realistic looks to only three key elements: the Dock at the bottom edge of the screen; the toolbar at the top of every Finder window; and the shimmering, sometimes animated backdrop of the desktop itself. This chapter shows you how to use and control these most dramatic elements of Mac OS X.

The Dock

Most operating systems maintain two different lists of programs. One of them-like the Start menu (Windows) or the Launcher (Mac OS 9)-lists unopened programs until you need them. The other list-like the taskbar (Windows) or the Application menu (Mac OS 9)-keeps track of which programs are open at the moment, so that you can easily switch among them.

In Mac OS X, Apple combined both functions into a single strip of icons called the Dock.

Apple’s thinking goes like this: Why must you know whether or not a program is already running? That’s the computer’s problem, not yours. In an ideal world, this distinction should be irrelevant. A program should appear when you click its icon, whether it’s open or not-just as on a PalmPilot, for example.

“Which programs are open” already approaches unimportance in Mac OS X, where sophisticated memory-management features make it hard to run out of memory. You can open dozens of programs at once in Mac ...

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