Program Launchers and Switchers

The Dock is Mac OS X’s combined program launcher and switcher. It’s also a spot for storing often-used documents and folders, as well as minimized windows (Chapter 3). But that’s a lot of tasks for one lonely program. Luckily, a number of highly effective third-party launchers and switchers can take some of the strain off your Dock.

Many competent launcher programs exist, including DragThing (Section 13.3), LaunchBar ( Section 14.2.1), PocketDock (, Butler ( Section 14.2.2), QuickSilver (, and DropDrawers ( Section 14.2.3). Most of these programs are “try before you buy” shareware, so experiment and find one you really like before emptying your pockets.

Once you’ve found a launcher you’re comfortable with, remove all your stored programs from the Dock (except, perhaps, for the new launcher itself), and use the replacement launcher instead. Most launcher programs also provide a keyboard shortcut to bring them forward, which means you can use them from any application.

Keyboard Launching

If you’re a keyboard power user, you’ll love LaunchBar ( for its sheer economy of effort. This program launcher lets you open any program or document with only a few keystrokes.

Once installed, LaunchBar places an icon in your Dock, and then hides itself until needed. You can open LaunchBar by clicking its icon in the Dock, but of course ...

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