I really like the Dock on my Mac system – much better than the Windows Taskbar! – but would like to improve the appearance by clustering apps with spacers. Is that possible in MacOS 12?
The Dock is generally one of the most loved features on the Mac. It’s a simple way to see what apps are running and to “dock” other apps that you use frequently. I’ve been a fan since the beginning with MacOS X when it was included in 10.0 “Cheetah” back in 2001. It hasn’t changed much since then other than refinements to the appearance. Functionality-wise, it could probably do with a few additional features, including the ability to add spacers as you desire. I’d like half-width and full-width divider lines that orient correctly if I move the Dock from the bottom to the left or right side, for example.
But don’t despair. There are ways you can cobble together a divider bar in your Dock by grabbing an “empty” application where its icon is the shape and design you want. From where? Let’s get to that. You can also use the third-party app TinkerTool to fiddle with your Dock appearance, but I find it’s flakey on the M1 architecture, perhaps since it’s non-Intel code, though that will probably be fixed any day now.
Anyway! Let’s have a closer look, shall we?
THE MAC DOCK: STANDARD APPEARANCE
You already know the regular appearance of the Dock:
This is a pretty typical view. The Finder is always leftmost and the Trash on the right edge, and app icons with a tiny white dot below them are actively running on the Mac. The others are shortcuts. To remove an icon from the Dock, simply click and slowly drag it away from the Dock until “Remove” appears as a text balloon. Then let go of the mouse/trackpad and the icon’s gone (unless it’s a running app).
Control-click on the vertical bar that separates the apps from the folders on the right side of the Dock (or just the Trash if that’s how you have it set up) and a menu appears:
I like “Hiding” which has the Dock vanish until I move the cursor to that edge of the screen, and “Magnification” has the icon you’re poised to choose larger than its neighbors on the Dock, handy if you shrink the Dock down a lot (which you can do by clicking and dragging on the divider bar: A two-headed white arrow shows up to denote that’s what you’re poised to do).
MACOS 12 DOCK PREFERENCES AND SETTINGS
Choose “Dock Preferences…” from this menu and you’ll see there’s a decent amount of customization available:
I recommend you experiment with the various settings to get the Dock as you prefer.
But what’s missing? Separators. To do that we’re going to have to hack things a bit…
HOW TO ADD SEPARATORS TO THE MAC DOCK
Fake out the Dock with apps that don’t do anything but have the icon you desire and miraculous things occur. I grabbed both a vertical divider bar app icon and a horizontal divider bar app icon from a post by u/Otherwise_Break_4293 on Reddit. You can grab it from this thread too: Add Spacers to Your Mac Dock. The download link is in the comments. 🙂
With those two empty apps downloaded, you can then simply drag one onto the Dock:
Since I have my Dock along the bottom, I’m using “vertical-bar”: If you have your Dock on the left or right, use “horizontal-bar” instead. You can only add it once as-is, but you can copy the empty app and give the new copy a different name, allowing you to add that separately. Divide away!
Decided you don’t like it after all? Just click and drag the divider bar off the Dock like any other app icon:
A cobbled together solution, as I said earlier, but if you really want a divider line, it’s a pretty ingenious solution.
OR YOU CAN USE TINKERTOOL
The other possibility is to use the Finder and MacOS hacking utility TinkerTool. Check it out at TinkerTool App. Once downloaded and installed, the Dock area of the window certainly offers a lot of additional settings and options:
I will note that I tried to add a spacer (not, alas, a dividing bar, just a blank space) to the Dock on my M1 MacBook Pro running MacOS 12.5, and even after a full restart it failed to show up. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with this geek-favorite Mac app.
And that’s it. Until Apple adds some features to the rather dusty Dock app, these are the main options for organizing and tweaking the appearance of the Dock on your Mac system. Good luck!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about the Mac since the very first system was released. Back in the era of the “fishbowl” design! Heck, I started my computing career on an Apple II. Please check out my extensive Mac Help Library while you’re visiting. Thanks!