By John Gruber
There are a bunch of cosmetic UI changes coming in Leopard; many of them, such as the new window chrome, are for the better. One, though, is clearly for the worse, so bad that one wonders how anyone at Apple can think it’s a good idea: the Dock.
Others have written at length regarding the downright bizarre visual inconsistencies it introduces. E.g. Craig Hockenberry on the fact that it (the Leopard Dock) is rendered in a completely different perspective than the HIG-prescribed perspective for application icons, and that it renders icons with conflicting, contradictory light sources.
It’s bad enough when the Dock is positioned in its default location at the bottom of the screen. But it’s just downright silly when you position it on the left or right side of the screen, as illustrated by Paul Kafasis on the Rogue Amoeba weblog. Kafasis posted an interesting idea to Twitter last week, though:
I know Apple’s committed to the “Shelf Dock” in Leopard. But they could make a different Dock for use on the sides.
Now that’s a clever idea.
I’m a Dock-on-the-side man, myself.1 Vertical screen real estate is more precious than horizontal on recent-vintage displays. The bottom has always struck me as a silly place to keep your Dock, so, it seems fair for Apple to give the Dock-on-the-bottom a silly look-and-feel.2
But the Dock-on-the-side? That’s a serious Dock. And it deserves a serious, non-silly, look-and-feel. Nothing fancy — the same Dock appearance from Mac OS X 10.4 would do just fine.
It’s a brilliant out for Apple: whoever it is who’s in love with the faux-3D perspective, reflective surface, and conflicting light sources can have them. The promotional screenshots for Leopard’s advertising and retail packaging will all be taken with the Dock at the bottom, with the silly-looking Dock.
But just move your Dock over to the side, and the goofiness goes away. Bonus points if Apple includes a hidden defaults preference to allow the non-silly appearance even when the Dock is at the bottom.