The Dock, Launchpad, and Mission Control

Learn about the OS X Mountain Lion Dock, OS X Mountain Lion Launchpad, and OS X Mountain Lion Mission Control in this lesson.

The Dock and Launchpad

Launch "Exploring the Dock and Launchpad" video!Watch the video (3:24).

Two of the most useful features in OS X are the Dock and Launchpad. You'll use these features to open your apps and files, as well as to customize your desktop so your favorite items are easy to access. The Dock is available in all versions of OS X, but Launchpad was introduced in Lion.

Watch the video to learn how to use and customize the Dock and Launchpad.

The Dock

The Dock houses shortcuts to your favorite apps, files, and folders, as well as the Trash. You can customize the Dock by reorganizing it, adding or deleting items, and changing settings.

The Dock contains a divider that looks like a solid line. Everything to the left of the divider is an app, and everything to the right is a file or folder. You'll need to keep this in mind when you reorganize the Dock.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe Dock

To reorganize the Dock:

  1. Add any apps, files, or folders by simply dragging them onto the Dock. For apps, it may be easiest to open Launchpad, since it contains all of your apps.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionAdding an app to the Dock
  2. Remove any unwanted items from the Dock by dragging them onto the desktop. You cannot remove Finder or the Trash from the Dock.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRemoving an app from the Dock
  3. Rearrange items on the Dock by dragging them to their desired locations.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRearranging the Dock

Everything on the Dock is a shortcut, so you won't delete anything by removing it from the Dock.

To customize Dock settings:

  1. Click the divider, then drag up or down to change the size of the Dock.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionResizing the Dock
  2. Right-click the divider to see a menu where you can change options like Hiding, Magnification, Position on Screen, and more.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRight-clicking the divider to change options

About Stacks

When you view a folder on the Dock, you may notice that it looks a little bit different from a normal folder. This is because the Dock uses a feature called Stacks, which displays folder contents as a Fan, Grid, or List. Because Stacks are accessible directly from the Dock, they make it easier to open your important files.

FanFan
GridGrid
ListList

To change how Stacks are displayed:

Launchpad

Launchpad displays all of the apps installed on your Mac. They are arranged into one or more pages, and you can switch to a different page by using the arrow keys, by clicking and dragging to the left or right, or by using a swiping gesture (if you have a Magic Mouse or trackpad).

To get the most out of Launchpad, you'll probably want to reorganize it. For example, you may want to move all of your favorite apps to the first page so you can open them more quickly. You can also create folders in Launchpad to house similar apps.

To reorganize Launchpad:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon on the Dock to open it. Alternatively, you can use a thumb and three-finger pinch (if you have a trackpad).


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionOpening Launchpad
  2. You will see icons for each app that is installed on your computer. Click and drag an icon to change the ordering.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRearranging Launchpad

You can move an icon from one page to another by dragging it to the right or left edge of the screen. The page will turn, and you can drop the icon on the new page.

To create a folder in Launchpad:

  1. In Launchpad, click and drag an icon directly onto another icon. The two icons will be placed into a new folder. Once the folder has been created, you can drag more apps into it if you want.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionCreating a folder in Launchpad

If you're used to using an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, the process of creating a folder in Launchpad may seem familiar to you. It is essentially the same as creating folders on those devices.

To remove a folder in Launchpad:

  1. In Launchpad, click on the folder to open it.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionAn open folder
  2. Click and drag the apps out of the folder area. Once the folder is empty, it will disappear automatically.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionDragging an app out of the folder area

Mission Control and desktop spaces

Launch "Mission Control and Desktop Spaces" video!Watch the video (3:11).

OS X Mountain Lion has two features that help you keep open files and apps organized: Mission Control and desktop spaces. Mission Control allows you to see everything you currently have open so you can easily access the files or apps you need. Desktop spaces are virtual desktops you can use to organize your open files and apps. Instead of keeping everything open on the same desktop, you can move some of your work to another desktop space to get it out of the way.

Watch the video to learn how to use Mission Control and desktop spaces.

To switch to a window with Mission Control:

  1. Click the Mission Control icon on the Dock. Alternatively, you can use an upward three-finger swipe (if you have a trackpad) or two-finger double-tap (if you have a Magic Mouse).


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionOpening Mission Control
  2. All of your open windows will spread out so you can see exactly which files and apps are open. At the top of the screen will be your desktop spaces, along with any full-screen apps that are open.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionMission Control
  3. When you click on a window, it will switch to that window and exit Mission Control.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionClicking on a window

Working with desktop spaces

To create a new desktop space:

  1. From Mission Control, hover the mouse in the top-right corner of the screen, and a tab with a plus sign (+) will appear.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionCreating a new space
  2. Click the tab to create a new desktop space. You can create up to 16 desktop spaces.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe new desktop space

To delete a desktop space:

  1. From Mission Control, hover the mouse over the desktop space you want to delete, and an "x" will appear in the corner.
  2. Click the "x" to delete the desktop space.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionDeleting a desktop space

To switch to a different desktop space:

For convenience, there are a few different ways to switch between desktop spaces:

To change the desktop background:

It may be helpful to have a different desktop background for each desktop space so you'll always know at a glance which one you're in.

  1. From Mission Control, switch to the desktop space you want to change.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionSwitching to a different space
  2. Right-click the desktop, then select Change Desktop Background.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionChanging the desktop background
  3. Select the desired image. It will become the background for the current desktop space. If desired, repeat these steps with all other desktop spaces to give each one a unique image.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionSelecting a new background image

To move an open window to a different desktop space:

Sometimes you may want to move an open window to a different desktop space to get it out of the way. Then you can switch to that desktop space whenever you want to use the window.

  1. From Mission Control, drag a window to the desired desktop space.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionMoving a window to a different space
  2. When you want to use the window again, you can simply switch to the desktop space where it's located.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe window in its new space

If you want an app to always open in a specific desktop space, right-click the app in the Dock and select This Desktop under Options.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionAssigning an app to a space