Anatomy of a Leopard Dock

From about a week after I’ve been running any version of Leopard on my Mac, I’ve customized the dock. Now I’m sure there are probably a lot of blog posts about customizing Leopard docks. Hell, there are even a boatload of websites solely dedicated to Leopard docks.

While upgrading to Snow Leopard, I was faced with a conundrum. I used to have a Leopard dock some awesome guy on the web made, but – by golly – did I not remember the URL to get it. So I decided to endeavor into the world of graphical dock modification, and eventually got the idea of writing a small post about this.

Dock Elements

In essence a dock consists of:

  • a plane
  • activity indicators
  • a small edge in the front
  • the separator between applications and folders

Sure, the total scope of the dock is many times bigger, including things like:

  • Simple vs. Perspective Mode, for 2D docks on either side of the screen. (this post will only go into the Perspective Mode)
  • Graphics for hover labels
  • Graphics for Stacks
  • Thrash icons
  • and just about any other graphic related to the dock

Digging into the Dock

First, we need to gain access to the dock (mind you, you need to be an administrator for this).

  1. The dock is located in /System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app
  2. Right-click Dock.app and click Duplicate – or use Command + D (just for safety)
  3. Right-click Dock.app and click Show Package Contents
  4. Navigate to Contents, then Resources, this is the folder in which all the image resources are located

Leopard Dock - File Location

Now that we know where to find the files, let’s have a go at the files.

Files that make the Dock

Leopard Dock w- Notes

  1. The plane where all the icons are located consists of four files, all for when the dock has different sizes. The filenames are scurve-s.png, scurve-m.png, scurve-l.png and scurve-xl.png
  2. The activity indicator also consists of files for different dimensions. These files are conveniently called indicator_small.png, indicator_medium.png and indicator_large.png
  3. The small edge in front is called frontline.png
  4. The dock separator is called separator.png

Customization Workflow

The essence of dock customization is changing the files I just showed you above, going into the terminal and firing the command killall Dock.

To all you tech-savvy readers, the following is pretty useless – you are probably already changing up files. For all you others, I’ll now go into the way I customized my dock.

  • I have created both the scurve and the indicator files from a single image, then duplicated them and renamed them to the correct filenames. I’ve seen that this does not have any large implications performance-wise.
  • For the scurve file I use a 1920 pixel wide and 150 pixel high semi-transparent image. The more transparent your image is in a certain spot, the more reflection it will create when in the dock.
  • For the dock indicator, I use a 30 pixel wide, 11 pixel high image.
  • The frontline is 790 pixels wide and 1 pixel high, it’s got a small gradient in it and you won’t even notice the original was only 790 pixels wide when scaling.
  • The default separator is to my liking, so I will not go into that.
  • File handling can be a problem, since you have to authenticate a lot to be able to change files within Dock.app. The best way is to create all the custom images you are going to use, delete the original ones from Dock.app and then put the new ones in. (Replacing files within Dock.app goes amiss a lot)

The wrap-up

Customizing the dock in OS X is not hard, you can’t go wrong if you have a copy of the original Dock.app. If you like the black dock I have created, you can download it. The archive also includes the PSD files of the scurve and indicator.