Tutorial Thursday

One of the first things that I did when I got my new (and first) Mac is I started customizing different aspects of the Dock. There’s actually a decent number of things that you can customize with the Dock by default, and it didn’t take long for me to start finding out some tricks here and there. A favorite of mine would be the drag-to-resize feature when clicking on the application/document separator. And then Lifehacker showed how I could add recent items to the Dock.

One thing that Apple failed to include was a way to separate your icons into groups, which can make it a little easier to find your applications. I figured there had to be a way to do this, and after a little Google searching I came across this article by Mac OS X Hints. In the end you can add as many separators as you would like on either side of the Dock. It’s really just an blank gap, but they work well at serving as a separators.

mac leopard spacers.png

How do you do this? There are actually two different ways that I’m going to show you, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one you’d like to use. You must be running Mac OS X Leopard for this to work though.

–SuperDocker (Homepage)–

The SuperDocker application is probably the easiest option for adding separators to the Leopard Dock. After you download and run the application you’ll want to look for the “Add a separator” option on the Dock tab:

mac separators leopard.png

From there you just need to decide which side you would like the separator to appear on. Choosing the Application zone will place the separator on the left side of the Dock, and choosing the Documents zone puts the separator on the right side. Every time you click one of those buttons you’ll see your Dock restart itself so that the new separators appear.

–The Terminal–

Power users who like to get their hands a little bit dirty will probably prefer to use the terminal. That way the need for yet another third-party application on your computer is eliminated. Here are the three commands that you’ll need to use:

  1. To add a separator to the left side of the dock (the application side) enter this into the terminal:
    defaults write persistent-apps -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'
    Repeat this step for each separator you would like, and make sure to press Enter each time to execute the command.
  2. To add a separator to the right side of the dock (the document side) enter this into the terminal:
    defaults write persistent-others -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'
    Repeat this step for each separator you would like, and make sure to press Enter each time to execute the command.
  3. Now you need to reset the Dock, which can be done by entering this into the terminal:
    killall Dock

Here’s a screenshot from when I executed each of the steps listed above:

mac dock separator terminal-1.jpg

–Removing the Separators–

If you ever decide that you don’t want the separator(s) anymore there are two fast ways to get rid of them. Just like most other Dock items you can drag each one off the Dock to have them removed, or you can Ctrl+Click (a.k.a. right-click) on them and select the remove option.


Maybe in the next version of Mac OS X Apple will think to add some sort of separation option to the Dock, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. At least there are tricks like this one that are able to separate the dozens of icons hosted in your Dock.