Developers come to the 'rescue' of Leopard's Stacks, Dock

One of the most heated complaints about Mac OS X Leopard concerns the new Stacks navigation feature and the new behavior of folders on the Dock. A number of small applications recently surfaced to fix the "problem."

One of the most heated complaints about Mac OS X Leopard concerns the new Stacks navigation feature and the new behavior of folders on the Dock. A variety of small applications recently surfaced to fix the "problem."

In previous flavors of Mac OS X, users could drag a folder to the dock and when they held down the mouse button, a hierarchical menu of the contents was presented. Users could move up and down the list and select an item.

Developers aim to ‘rescue’ Leopard’s Stacks, Dock

The Leopard release changed that behavior. Now, the Dock can have Stacks, a new kind of folder that shows the items in the Stack as a fan or as a grid of icons in a preview pane. The image of the Stack is based on the items in the folder, or more the first item.

Apple says the feature is "pretty neat."

Leopard starts you off with two premade stacks: one for downloads and the other for documents. The Downloads stack automatically captures files downloaded from Safari, Mail, and iChat, and the Documents stack is a great place to keep things like presentations, spreadsheets, and word processing files. You can create as many stacks as you wish simply by dragging folders to the right side of your Dock. Pretty neat.

Not! Many users, especially longtime OS X users, think this change sucks.

It was a hot topic of discussion at this week's BMUGWest user group meeting in San Francisco. One longtime attendee blamed this and other changes on the influx of Windows switchers. This is an interesting and valid point for some changes in the OS but perhaps not for this one.

Leopard’s Finder Cover Flow: Yuck! Stacks File browsing.

"The fan is stupid and the grid is useless," said one. He also bemoaned the shrinking options, since the Dock doesn't let users decide on whether they want the old folder behavior or the Stacks behavior. He quoted the Henry Ford adage now being adopted by Apple: "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black."

Developers have offered Dock substitutes since the introduction of Mac OS X. And several this month released "fixes" for Leopard's Stacks. Here are some of them:

HierarchicalDock. Released last week, this freeware app is by a duo of coders in Vienna going by the name of Eternal Storms Software. I haven't loaded the app but it appears very straightforward.

Quay. This app by German developer Rainer Brockerhof was demonstrated at the BMUGWest meeting. It costs $10.

OlderFolder. This software by Justin Hawkwood is freeware. The reviews give it good marks. However, I found its directions a bit kludgy.

To create additional folders, just duplicate the application and launch, as OldFolder keeps track of which folder to open based on the launched applications name.

However, some folks might want to just forego the standard Dock.

DragThing. TLA Systems says that DragThing is the "original dock," since they had a dock-style launcher for the Classic Mac OS. It supports multiple docks, with lots of viewing options. It cost $29 and the Leopard-compatible version was released this month.

Hierarchy. This freeware app is a stripped down version of DragThing but free. It presents a small palette that you can drop folders or files into. From its hierarchical menus, files can be launched and folders either opened or browsed in the menu.