Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taskbar versus Dock

A few months ago I asked a coworker who had recently become a Mac fanboy to try to convince me on using a Mac OSX-like Dock instead of using the Windows Taskbar, other than aesthetics. He said something about "application-based" versus "document-based," but it all sounded like he was quoting some blog article. So I checked some blogs, and got a better idea of what the hell he was talking about.

I decided to stick with the Taskbar (with the shiny Zune desktop theme, of course). It took up less desktop space and memory, and most importantly I hated how on the OSX dock, you couldn't see all of the open application windows accessible without cycling through them, or be minimized first. And there wasn't much of a difference from launching applications in the dock versus having them in the Windows quick start toolbar.

A few days ago, two months after that initial conversation, I decided to check out the two most popular options for a Windows dock myself: Objectdock (by Stardock, free or 20 dollars for the plus version), and Rocketdock (Punk Labs, freeware).

I tried Objectdock first, and was first impressed by its look (it looks a lot like the OSX dock, regardless of which of the included skins you used. Nothing wrong with that), and secondly at how small its memory footprint was. All of the options you had in the OSX dock were present (being able to drag/drop stuff into it, move them around, etc), plus quite a bit more (I do have to admit, the options windows weren't intuitively labeled, and I didn't have the easiest time with figuring out what the different options actually did.

It also docked vertically on the sides of the screen far better than any configuration of the windows taskbar.

I was pleased to learn that Objectdock also had the taskbar option of having all the windows represented on the right side of the dock (the same place OSX windows would go if you minimized them), and it worked just as I assumed. I was almost ready to throw out my Windows taskbar altogether. Except for one thing.

The free version of Objectdock did not have support for the system tray icons (the icons on the far right of the taskbar where the clock is). OSX doesn't have a system tray (at least not in the dock... I guess that thing on the upper right is its system tray), so I guess in trying to mimic OSX native support for that was unfortunately overlooked (despite the existence of taskbar support). Objectdock's premium version apparently does support the system tray, but apparently at the expense of taskbar functionality. I refused to pay a premium for something that can only do two of the three things I take for granted now at any given time.

Disappointed but not altogether surprised, I moved onto RocketDock, only to find it doesn't have any support for system tray icons at all (how can you dock people survive without it???)

I also tried other programs like Y'ZDock (I dunno where that name comes from), and checked out RK Launcher and Mobydock, and they all seemed to have the same limitations.

As such, I've decided to stick with my very tweaked, customized, shiny old taskbar:

Soon I'll highlight exactly what tweaks I did to make it look like that!

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Bernie said...

THANK YOU for finally blogging about what I'm adamantly trying to defend here in my MAC-focused workplace...

Mac dock/taskbar systems are pretty, yes, but NOT functional for someone who's doing a ton of browser research (read: SEO)!

I have been looking for a way to "turn my Mac into a PC" because I'm just not as effective with the Mac method (you have to minimize each screen in order for it to appear in that little tray...???) and plus all my co-workers (AVID Mac fans) think I'm nuts.

I'll be saving this article of yours to forward to any of them if (ahem, correction - WHEN) they get snippy.

Again, much thanks for agreeing.

Jackie said...

Hello Arvin!
I stumbled upon your website (Greasy PC) while surfing. Checked some of your reviews and liked them a lot. I am also very picky with my PC and the programs I use.

I recently (about a year ago) switched from taskbar to objectdock. I was very hesitant at first, but a few docklets I found made me a fan of docks (and especially objectdock with its small memory footprint, as you mentioned in your article) in the end.

Two docklets that made me a faithful user of objectdock are STACKS and OBJECTDOCK TRAY. I am sure you are familiar with Stacks. Lifehacker covered it in various occasions. But Objectdock Tray is far less known.

The website is simple, but rather crude (with more than a few popups). It is: http://nimix13.ni.funpic.de/tray/index.htm
You can also get it from Wincustomize: http://www.wincustomize.com/skins.aspx?skinid=3916&libid=29

I worked around with a few tray icons and they all appeared within the docklet in the end. I am quite curious about your thoughts after having a look at this docklet and experimenting it.
Keep us posted.
Best Regards,

ps. I also sent an email to your address (freesuperheroes AT yahoo).

Jack said...

Hi there

Good article, but from what I've seen Mac still has a better implementation of the dock because of the title bar that runs across the top of the screen at all times. This lets you control a lot of application level functions, and it does have a tray at the top right much like Windows.

As for minimization complaints, there is a fancy expose function that brings up all open windows, either globally or on a per application level.

Simple put it's just a different way of working. Both take getting used to.

Jacob said...

Try Emerge Desktop... it will allow you to achieve elimination of the standard taskbar... substituting a dock for quick launch/start and switching between active windows and supports preservation of the system tray 100%.