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Customize the Dock: Add a Recent Applications Stack to the Dock

Make Your Dock More Versatile

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Customize the Dock: Add a Recent Applications Stack to the Dock

The Recent Items stack can display recently used applications.

The Dock is one of OS X’s best features. It puts applications and documents at your fingertips, where you can access them with a click of the mouse. But what if an application or document is one that you don’t use often enough to deserve its own space in the Dock? For example, I often make heavy use of an application for a day or two, and then rarely use it again for several months. It certainly doesn’t deserve to take up dedicated space in the Dock, but it would be handy to be able to access it quickly during those few days I’m using it heavily.

One method of accomplishing this goal is the ‘Recent Items’ Apple menu item, which provides easy access to recently used documents, applications, and servers. But if you’re Dock-oriented like me, you might wish you could access the Recent Items option through the Dock instead of the Apple menu.

Fortunately, it’s both possible and easy to customize the Dock by adding a Recent Items stack. Not only will this stack keep track of applications, documents, and servers you’ve recently used, it will also track volumes and any favorite items you’ve added to the Finder sidebar.

The Recent Items stack is so versatile I’m surprised Apple didn’t include it as part of the standard Dock.

What You Need

  • OS X 10.5.x. This tip works specifically with OS X 10.5.x and will probably work with any future version of OS X.
  • The willingness to use the Terminal application to customize the Dock. The Terminal application gives you a command line interface to the underbelly of OS X.

Let’s Get Started

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.
  2. Enter the following text into Terminal. You can copy/paste the following line into Terminal, or you can simply type the line as shown. (The command below is a single line of text, but your browser may break it into multiple lines. Be sure to enter the text as a single line in the Terminal application.
  3. 
    defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'
    

  4. After you enter the line above, press enter or return.
  5. Enter the following text into Terminal. If you type the text rather than copy/paste it, be sure to match the case of the text.
  6. 
    killall Dock
    

  7. Press enter or return.
  8. The Dock will disappear for a moment and then reappear.
  9. Enter the following text into Terminal.
  10. 
    exit
    

  11. Press enter or return.
  12. The exit command will cause Terminal to end the current session. You can then quit the Terminal application.

Using the Recent Items Stack

Your Dock will now have a new Recent Items stack located just to the left of the Trash icon. If you click on the Recent Items stack, you will see a list of your most recently used applications. Click the Recent Items stack again to close the display of recent applications.

But wait; there’s more. If you right-click on the Recent Items stack, you will see that you can choose which recent items should display. You can select any of the following from the menu: Recent Applications, Recent Documents, Recent Servers, Recent Volumes, or Favorite Items.

If you would like to have more than one Recent Items stack, repeat the terminal commands listed above under ‘Let’s Get Started.’ This will create a second Recent Items stack, which you can right-click and assign to show one of the recent item types. For instance, you could have two Recent Item stacks; one showing recent applications and the other showing recent documents.

Deleting the Recent Items Stack

If you decide you don’t wish to have a Recent Items stack in your Dock, you can make it disappear by right-clicking on the stack and selecting ‘Remove from Dock’ from the pop-up menu. This will remove the Recent Items stack and return your Dock to the way it looked before you added the Recent Items stack.

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