Mac Basics: Learn to use the Mac’s Dock

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This is a video from my new course on Udemy that covers Mac® Basics for those who are used to using a Windows® computer, Mac OS X Fundamentals for Windows Brains.

The Mac tutorial is an introductory course for people who are thinking about switching over, or for those who have recently switched and are feeling a bit confused. We will start at a blank Mac desktop and talk about what you see on that screen and then dive deeper into things like file management and system preferences. Along the way, I will help you use what you already know about Windows to learn how to use a Mac.

Take a look at the video below and learn about all of the things that the Dock can do for you! If you want to continue learning, sign up for the FREE crash course, which will get you 3 videos from the course, a couple of freebies, plus a 50% off coupon for the full course. Click here to sign up.

Video transcript:

Mac Basics Tutorial – Learn the Dock in the Mac Operating System

In this lesson, we’re going to learn about the bar at the bottom of the screen that’s called the dock. First, let’s learn what it does and then we’ll make some comparisons to Windows.


The dock does a lot of things. What you see on the dock are shortcuts to apps. You have a dividing line on the dock and on the right side of it you have shortcuts to different files and folders. If I click on it, there are actually files inside a folder. Down here at the end is your trash can and down at the other end you have your Finder. The Finder is where you go to look for all your files and organize your files, but we’ll talk about that a little bit later.

Application Launcher

You can launch applications from the Dock. I can click on Contacts to open that up. It bounces to let me know that it’s loading and then you see a black dot underneath that icon. That black dot signifies that that the program is open. I’ll close the window and the black dot disappears. Now I know that Contacts is not open.


It also gives you a way to get to all of your programs here with Launchpad. What I’m seeing here on the Dock right now is not everything that I have installed, but if I click on Launchpad this is going to show me everything. Notice that there’s two dots right here signifying that there’s a page one and page two. You can click on the dot or you can swipe with two fingers on a trackpad or swipe with one finger on a mouse and see both pages. If there’s something in here that you don’t have a shortcut to on the dock, such as Google Chrome, you can just drag it down, and that’s how you make a new shortcut on the dock.

Windows Equivalents

The Dock is comparable to the Taskbar in Windows in that it lets you open applications and switch between applications. It shows you which applications are open with the little dot, and it lets you pin an unpin things to it like when we dragged down the shortcut to Chrome. The Dock is also comparable to some of the functionality in the Windows Start menu because it gives you a quick way to get to all of your applications with Launchpad. Launchpad is also very similar to the Windows 8 Start screen.

Shortcuts to files

Notice that I can take a file and drag it down here to the right to the right side of the line and I can make a shortcut to that file right here on my dock, similar to the way you make a shortcut to files on the Desktop in Windows. So it’s also similar to Desktop shortcuts in Windows.

‘Pinning’ Application Shortcuts to the Dock

Just a few more tips about using the Dock. If I go to my Launchpad and I open up something that’s not currently in the Dock like Microsoft Word, the program is going to show up here at the end of the dock. It’s bouncing to let me know that it’s loading. So now when I quit Word… so I’m gonna go to the menu bar and quit Word. It’s icon is going to disappear from the dock because I didn’t originally have it there as a shortcut.

So let’s say I open up Word and I think, well this is a shortcut that I would like to keep in my Dock. I could have just gone to Launchpad and dragged it down here like it did with the Chrome icon, but since it’s already open, I don’t have to go through that. I can just do a two finger click on the trackpad or right-click on the mouse, go to options and tell it to keep in Dock. This is kind of similar to ‘pinning’ something to the Taskbar in Windows. Now that I’ve told it to keep it in the Dock, this time when I go to Word and quit, the icon is actually going to stay in the dock after the program closes.

Resize and Change Behavior of the Dock

Another tip about the Dock is that you can resize it, and you don’t have to have it at the bottom of the screen. You can move it either side of the screen. Let’s look at resizing it. You have this line right here that divides the shortcuts to files and folders from the shortcuts to applications. Whenever you hover over it, you see two up and down arrows. If you hold down and move up and down, you can resize it you can make the Dock bigger smaller just by dragging on top of that line.

If we go up here to System Preferences in the Apple menu… System Preferences, which we will talk about later, are like Control Panel in Windows, there are preferences for the Dock. Here we can also resize it. You can make it smaller, make it larger. Magnification: notice how right now with magnification turned off, when I hover over the icons, it just shows me the name. If I turn on magnification now and I hover of the icons, they get a little bit bigger as I move over them. I can decide how much bigger they get by using this slider. Or I can turn it off again. I can decide if I’d rather have it on the left side of the screen or the right side of the screen. There are other system preferences here for the dock that you can experiment with and see how you like it.

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