Jun 12, 2014 — by: E. Werner Reschke
Categories: OS X
Controlling the Dock in OS X Mavericks

One of the best features in OS X Mavericks is Apple’s major improvement to multiple display management. A key complaint Mavericks addressed was to display the Finder menu bar at the top of each display. So whether one is working on their main display or a secondary one, the menu bar is readily available on the same display without having to always go to the main one to select a menu item.

Using Spaces (aka Mission Control) is improved in Mavericks as well. Rather than both displays being paired together into a “single desktop”, in Mavericks the main display can have its own set of desktops independent from the secondary display’s set of desktops. This make switching between multiple desktops extremely flexible (and powerful) for almost any work mode. And then there is the Dock...

Yes, the Dock. The Dock by default starts on the main display. However, if after a time after  of working longer on a secondary display, and if the cursor goes to the bottom of the screen,... guess what? The Dock moves from the main display to the secondary one, whether this is the desired behavior or not. The only way is to get the Dock back to the main display is to work longer on the main display than the secondary one and then move the cursor to the bottom of the main display in hope that Apple has decided it is now time to move the Dock back to the main display. What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be any documentation on how long is long enough. What a pain.

Dock Control Work Around

However, there is hope for the multi-display Mac enthusiast who goes mad when their Mavericks Dock misbehaves. The Dock can be told which display to appear on — at any time. The following three steps will move the Dock to the desired display immediately.

  1. Enable Dock Hiding — This can be done by pressing opt+cmd+d or right-click on the Dock separator and select “Turn Hiding On”.
  2. Now that the Dock is hidden, move the cursor to the bottom of the desired display where the Dock is to appear.
  3. When the Dock pops up from hiding, Turn Hiding Off (opt+cmd+d). Now the Dock will remain on the current display — until it decides to move again.

While this is a functional work around, the real solution is for Apple to give users more control of the Dock’s display preference. If Apple were to enable the following three modes it would be very flexible to suite individual tastes.

  • Dock remains on one display only (with options to select either monitor as the default)
  • Dock is visible on all displays simultaneously
  • Dock behaves as it does today

With these three simple settings Apple could really make Dock management far better than what people with multiple displays must cope with today. Until then, we have the Dock control work around.

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  1. Brian ~ Jun. 13, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

    I might be misunderstanding the point of your article, but I don't see this problem with the Dock in Mavericks at all. I am working with an iMac, which is attached another monitor. On my dual displays I have a dock for each, as well as independent Spaces. And since I use one monitor almost exclusively with Firefox, and my iMac with Safari, it's like I have two computers. I took a look at my System Preferences, and I have "Automatically hide and show the Dock" check, but as I said, it just works though I am not sure what update to Mavericks brought this functionality, though I do recall that it was a bit spotty for awhile (I am working with 10.9.3 currently). #
  2. E. Werner Reschke ~ Jun. 14, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    Hi Brian, our work flows are different. You are correct - if you have the Dock in hiding mode - then the dock follows you which ever display you are using. But if you always have the Dock visible (which I do), then it doesn’t work as nice as described in the article, and thus the work around is necessary to keep from going mad (at times). -Werner #
  3. Jesse ~ Mar. 2, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

    Does this work for Yosemite as well? (I guess the better question is, SHOULD this work for Yosemite as well?) I have two screens with their own spaces and the Dock on the right side in Hiding Mode but...when I go to my second monitor...the Dock doesn't follow me. Even when I try your tip it doesn't work. #
  4. Lorenzo ~ Mar. 24, 2015 @ 10:01 am

    Yeah, it doesn't work on Yosemite. Also, what if my second monitor is vertically stacked (on top) of the mac one?? I can't slide down to reveal Dock because my mouse will go in the first (macbook) screen... #
  5. Kihan ~ Mar. 28, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

    Yes. It works for me. Yosemite dual horizontal display. Dock is bottom of display. Dock moved to another display spontaneously. and I googled and then read this article. option-command-d(auto hide) and mouse move to see a dock and option-command-d(stay). I can move dock to a display that I want to place a dock. Thanks #

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