The Apple Dock in Windows

After setting up a PC with Ubuntu for my Mom to use, I decided to add a few things to the Windows XP system that’s also occasionally used by Mom and Dad. Since I was aiming to make things easier to use, in order to encourage my Mom to use the computer more, I took a cue from Apple, and started looking for a program that would emulate the Apple “Dock” that’s so often showcased at their stores. I had previously seen Glen using a program like this, so I knew they existed – while I didn’t have a need for it at the time, I’ve begun to think different (excuse the blatant Apple slogan rip off) when it comes to usability – not everyone is like me.

RocketDock in action - like the Apple Dock

Wait a minute!

Now, some of you will know that I’m no fan of Apple fanboys, (or fanboys in general), but Apple does get it right when it comes to usability – people generally find Macs easier to use, and more intuitive. While their current line of commercials (“Hello, I’m a Mac…”) may be annoying, they are in general correct for the majority of users who just want to “get things done”. This can be further seen in the success of the iPod – its control interface is second to none.

What’s wrong with the UI in Windows?

There’s nothing wrong with the UI in Windows – it works just fine for me, and I don’t find that it gets in the way when I’m trying to get things done. But, for some people, such things aren’t so intuitive, perhaps because they don’t live and breath computers like I do.

The quick launch bar that comes with Windows is okay, and so is the Start Menu – but an application Dock is bigger, more visible and thus is quicker to use for the average user, such as my Mom. (Though some would disagree)

The choices

It turns out there’s a lot of other people who also want a Dock like Apple’s in Windows, since there are a plethora of programs out there that accomplish this. The top three I found were MobyDock, RocketDock and Y’z Dock. I only had time to try out the first two, and there were many more that I didn’t bother to look at, but I was impressed.

Both programs support easy drag and drop operations, so you can add programs to the dock simply by dragging an existing shortcut onto it; removing the icons from the dock is just as easy. They can also be positioned virtually anywhere on the screen, with offsets from top/bottom/left/right being allowed. They also feature the nice “zoom” animations as featured on Apple’s version, and have a small memory footprint.

They’re also devoid of any confusing jumble of messy configuration dialogs – the settings pages are very simple and straightforward, and the apps “just work”, so you probably won’t need to even touch the configuration pages. This is the way software should work, at least software intended to be used by the masses. Too often, software comes with too many options pages, making configuration both confusing and tedious. Usability testing should be done to find out what’s intuitive, instead of making a bunch of cryptic settings.

Out of the two, MobyDock probably offered more features than RocketDock, offering built-in widgets for Weather, Screenshots and a Clock. However, it also seemed to be a bit buggy, as it crashed a few times, so I’ll be using RocketDock since it’s for the parents’ computer, and they don’t need to deal with that. MobyDock also seems to have stalled in development, with the latest version being put out way back on November 18th, 2003 – by contrast RocketDock still appears to be continually updated.

Kudos to the developers of these programs for not only making a useful piece of software, but also for making them freely availabe.

One Comment »

  1. it is nice

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