Remember the days of digging through folders of shortcuts and menus to launch applications? These days many users prefer customisable, attractive docks for launching and keeping track of their favourite apps. Here's a look at five of the most popular docks.
Photo by ktylerconk.
Application docks are such active and dynamic pieces of software, we've opted for this Hive Five to forgo using static images and instead include a video of the dock in action so you can get an eyeful of the transitions and smooth animations that have led these docks to be reader favourites.
Note: Docks that are included with an operating system, like the OS X dock, are flagged as "Free" for the purposes of our review.
Windows 7 Taskbar (Windows, Free)
A long time coming, Windows finally enhanced the standard taskbar, creating a swanky dock system to call its own. Winodws users trying out Windows 7 for the first time are in for an extra big treat—the change from the old taskbar system to the new dock is huge. You can drag and drop to pin shortcuts to the taskbar, Win+# (where the # is the numerical position of the pinned icon) launches the application, and icons also have jump lists associated with them—quick access to routine features and commands for that particular application. Hovering over the icon of a running application gives you a quick peek and the ability to jump to the application or close it. Microsoft was late to the dock party, but at least when they finally rolled it out, they remembered to decorate with streamers and bring a cake.
RocketDock (Windows, Free)
Long before Windows had any built-in dock, RocketDock was producing a high-quality dock for Windows users. RockDock supports real-time window preview—in Vista and above—and auto-hide and preview popup on mouse over. The support for blended icons gives the dock a polished look and makes it easy to swap out existing icons for new ones. RocketDock is portable and highly customisable. You can download additional skins, icon sets, and docklets—dock plugins that enhance the functionality of RocketDock.
Mac OS X Dock (Mac OS X, Free)
Mac OS X's built-in Dock is what most people think of when they hear about application docks. It's smooth, attractive and easy to use. Application shortcuts are docked on the left, minimised applications and documents are on the right. Dock's Stacks feature (new in Leopard, improved in Snow Leopard) helps you keep your desktop clutter to a minimum while giving you quick access to folder navigation. Related documents, downloads, and applications can be turned into a Stack, making it easy to quickly preview the grouping from a single icon on the dock instead of cluttering up the dock or desktop with dozens of icons. In addition to previewing windows and sorting them in stacks, the dock also supports secure deletion of files. It's simple, straightforward, and a default favourite for most Mac users..
Star ObjectDock (Windows, Basic: Free, Plus: $US19.95)
ObjectDock is another excellent Windows dock system that predates the introduction of the Windows 7 Taskbar-as-dock. ObjectDock is easily customised to fit the layout and theme of your system. Thousands of skins and alternative icons are available, and like RocketDock, it also supports Docklets for enhancing functionality. ObjectDock can be integrated with your existing Windows taskbar or it can replace it entirely. To keep ObjectDock running smoothly even on lower-end machines, you can customise the performance options to keep the core functionality while ditching some of the swankier animations and transitions. ObjectDock also includes a feature that allows you to package up your current customisations—great for backing up your ObjectDock tweaks and sharing them with others. If you upgrade to the Plus version, you get additional features, like the ability to run multiple docks and create a tabbed dock.
Gnome-Do with Docky (Linux, Free)
Just because you voted "Independent" in the Operating System Elections doesn't mean you're going to be left out in the cold when it comes docks. Docky is a dock interface to the extremely popular Gnome-Do application launcher. The level of integration between Docky and applications you use is impressive—whether those applications are webapps or desktop apps. You can easily make entries in Google Calendar, upload pictures to ImageShack, take screenshots, and more right from the dock. Like many of the other docks featured in today's Hive, Docky supports expansion by plug-ins and is quite customizable. One neat feature is Docky's ability, courtesy of the underlying Gnome-Do, to suggest items for the dock that it considers relevant to you and would be a helpful addition to the dock.
Have something to add? Want to share your favourite docklet for your favourite dock? Let's hear all about it in the comments.