I have found a way to reduce the extent to which the Dock in OS X is annoying. Two things about it are especially bothersome. The first is how it makes it overly easy to accidentally launch applications that take a long time to load. In particular, I find myself accidentally hitting the Word and Excel icons once in a while: programs that I make sure to only run when I absolutely need them. The second is how it changes shape and position, which is simply bad design. Turning off ‘hiding’ helps, but there is still the matter of the Dock getting longer when you run more programs. The following helps with the first problem only. Hopefully, a bit of a UI re-think will be done for Leopard.
One way to reduce the frustration is with Quicksilver. It is like a version of Spotlight that is actually useful on a minute-by-minute basis, even for someone well organized enough to know where a particular file will be. You can use a key combination to bring up the Quicksilver ‘launcher’ and then type the first couple of characters of an application that you use often, but want to remove from the Dock. Similarly, it can be used to rapidly bring up contacts, folders, iTunes tracks, iPhoto albums, and other such things. You can, for instance, type the name of an iTunes playlist and have it start playing, all in under a second, without having to open the iTunes window.
One more nice thing about it is that it isn’t tied exclusively to Mac applications. People will call me a heretic for preferring Entourage over Mail, but I am sticking with it. Likewise, Firefox over Safari and Adium over iChat.
Mac users who want to get the most out of their operating environment should definitely give it a whirl. It becomes useful in less than ten minutes.