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How to add a quick-access app launcher to the MacOS dock

If you want to work more efficiently on a Mac, here's how to access your apps from both the left and right side of the display.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
Woman with laptop in front of her
LaylaBird/Getty Images

The MacOS desktop interface is very user-friendly and makes it easy to work with your applications. With each iteration of the desktop, it gets better and better. 

Those of you who've been working with MacOS for a while have probably grown accustomed to using a combination of dock icons and Launchpad to open your installed applications.

There's another way to take on this task, one that might feel a bit more traditional to users who prefer multiple ways to open their applications. 

This alternative method is similar to Launchpad, without the search option. In other words, it's just a straightforward application menu. 

Also: Don't waste your money on these Apple products, December 2022 edition

This might seem redundant, but I've found it helpful because it places an app menu at both ends of the MacOS Dock, which means you can access your installed apps from either the left or right side of the display for a more efficient workflow.

The feature is built into MacOS but isn't enabled by default. I'm going to show you how to add this app launcher to the MacOS dock.

How to add a quick-access app launcher to the MacOS dock

Adding this menu to the Dock is a rather hidden affair. You won't find it in System Preferences or the Dock Settings. In fact, I happened upon it rather by accident and I'm glad I did because I prefer to use this method of launching apps over Launchpad.

How do you add it? It's quite simple (once you know how).

Requirements

The only thing you'll need for this is a MacOS device like a MacBook Pro with an updated version of the operating system. I will be demonstrating with MacOS Ventura (v13.0). That's it. Let's get this menu added to the Dock.

1. Open Finder

The first thing to do is open Finder, which can be done from the MacOS Dock.

2. Locate the Applications entry

In the left sidebar, you should see the Applications entry. If you click that entry, it will reveal all of your installed applications within Finder. Conveniently, you can launch any application from there.

The Applications entry in MacOS Finder.

All of your installed MacOS apps are found here.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Also: How to force-quit a stubborn app on MacOS

3. Add the menu to the Dock.

If you two-finger tap (or right-click if you use a mouse) the Applications entry in the left sidebar, a new menu will appear. From that popup menu, click Add to Dock and the new Application Menu will appear on the right side of the MacOS Dock.

The right-click context menu in MacOS Finder.

Adding the Application Menu to the MacOS Dock.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Launch an app from the new menu

Click the new App Launcher Menu to reveal all of your installed applications. Click any one of those launchers to open the app you want to use.

The MacOS application launcher menu.

Yet another method for launching apps in MacOS.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's all there is to adding yet another method of opening applications in MacOS. Give this App Launcher a try and see if it doesn't either become your go-to app launcher or just a means of supplementing Launchpad. Either way, this trick should come in handy.

Also: How to configure apps to start up on login with MacOS

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