Show Me Your Dock! Series – Part 2

Khoi Vinh Bio

Khoi Vinh is the Design Director for, leading the newspaper’s web design team. He is also one of the recent pioneers of Grid based design and the author of the popular (and beautiful) design blog, where he writes extensively on design, technology and user experience matters of all kinds. Prior to joining, Khoi was a founding partner at the ground-breaking design studio Behavior LLC.

Khoi also happens to be one of my favourite designers and it is a huge privilege to have him take part in this blog series.

Khoi’s Intro..

First, I should say it takes a lot to get me to add icons, and remove icons from my Dock. That’s not because I’m so disciplined about keeping my Dock orderly, but rather because I use Quicksilver so heavily that most times I don’t even need the Dock. That said, when I set up a new Mac, I certainly do try and populate the Dock with my staple applications.

The Dock…

Khoi Vinh Mac Dock


  • Quicksilver – it’s practically the first thing I install on every Mac I set up. I find it completely indispensable.
  • Camino – An example of how Quicksilver’s effectiveness causes me to neglect the Dock: I stopped using Camino regularly a year ago or so, but it remains there nevertheless.
  • Safari – I still use it quite a bit, but it’s my second browser really.
  • Firefox – I actually prefer Safari a little more, but Firefox’s add-ons give it the edge. I have it open all the time, in spite of its obnoxious update frequency and frequent crashiness. If you haven’t guessed, I have a love/hate relationship with it.
  • Adium – Second only to Firefox as my most used application.
  • iChat– Comes in handy once in a while when Adium can’t handle a direct connection or I need to video chat.
  • NetNewsWire – Another app that should be mothballed. I used to really like this application, but its developers obviously don’t give a damn about it anymore. I’m a committed Google Reader user now.
  • Peel – Handy RSS client for extracting MP3s from music blogs. I don’t open it up as much as I’d like to.
  • Address Book and iCal – I use them extensively, but usually launch them from Quicksilver.
  • Preview – Indispensable.
  • iPhoto – I know I should get with Lightroom or Aperture, but I’m too lazy and really, all I have time for is iPhoto.
  • iBank – My personal finance software. It’s way better than Quicken and doesn’t extort you for paid upgrades every few years.
  • Spaces – After trying to use it for a while I decided that this was a waste of time. I should remove it.
  • Time Machine – I don’t use it too often, but when I do, it’s a huge help. People aren’t impressed with it, but I think it’s terrific.
  • System Preferences – Everyone needs System Preferences!
  • Keynote – One of my most favorite programs ever.
  • Awaken – An alarm clock/egg timer that comes in handy surprisingly often. Last year my clock radio was on the fritz for a short time, and I used Awaken to get me up in the mornings, streaming my local public radio station’s Internet simulcast. You never really expect you’re going to need to do something like that until you do.
  • Numbers – I never use it. I have to admit, I still use Excel for that stuff.
  • DragThing – After over decade of continuous use, I still use it on my main Mac though I’ve weaned myself off of using it on my other Macs. I like its Process Dock, which shows you all running processes. I guess I keep it around out of nostalgia more than anything.
  • Word – I still have to use this from time to time, so help me God.
  • Excel – Still useful, though more and more I’m turning to Google Docs for spreadsheet work.
  • Photoshop – Still indispensable, though I try to use Pixelmator as often as I can, if nothing else, it saves me the 10 minutes that it takes Photoshop to launch.
  • Illustrator– I do wireframes in Illustrator still, and some vector work occasionally. But it’s such a plodding, inelegant beast, I try to avoid it if I can.
  • InDesign – Once in a blue moon, I need to do some print work.
  • Flash – I never, ever open this program. By the way, these are all CS3 applications. I just don’t think the upgrade to CS4 is worth the money.
  • Acrobat – I use Preview 90% of the time, but since I own Acrobat, I use it to edit/combine PDFs. It’s also a plodding, inelegant beast.
  • Parallels – It’s great I can launch Windows on my Mac with this…but I really hardly ever need to.
  • AirFoil – Terrific utility for sending audio from my Mac to my AirPort Express and Apple TV. I use it quite often.
  • MacGourmet Deluxe – I store recipes in here. Well, I’m starting to. Right now I have three.
  • PathFinder– I feel a little geeky using PathFinder. It’s definitely a tool that’s more about having lots of cool features than it is about being efficient… but it is really nice. Anyway, I try to use it regularly, but I can’t say I miss it too greatly when I don’t.
  • Pages – Used rarely.
  • Default Folder – One of my favorite utilities. Really, really helpful. It’s probably the second or third thing I install when setting up a new Mac.
  • 1Password – Fantastic password management software. I really can’t live without this these days. Far, far superior to relying on the Mac OS X keychain.
  • Transmit – Everyone uses Transmit, right?
  • Calculator – Um, it happened to be open when I took this screen grab.
  • Photo Booth – Surprisingly handy for showing people stuff remotely. When I took this screen grab, I had just used Photo Booth to send a friend in another state proof that his postcard had arrived.
  • Layers – Awesome utility for taking screen grabs and preserving all of the windows and icons in Photoshop layers. Truly amazing, actually.
  • ———————————————————————————————————–
    It’s not often you gain an insight into the machine of such an influential designer, so i would like to say a huge thanks to Khoi for taking time out to share his dock and the apps that he uses on a daily basis.

    With more amazing creatives lined up, make sure to check back every Tuesday for the latest Dock Series installment.


  1. Pete says:

    Nice feature. It’s cool to see what tools everyone else uses. Good work!

  2. freeze says:

    which build of quicksilver are you using? The build I have is mighty crashy.

  3. tommy says:

    HUGE DOCK! Seems counterintuitive to have all those apps in there if you’re using Quicksilver, but to each their own.

    Gracie, please link up the web site to the app names.

  4. Khoi says that he uses Quicksilver so heavily that he barely uses the Dock anymore, which implies that he uses Quicksilver for launching all of his applications. I used to use Quicksilver a lot, but only as a launcher. I never actually got around to shooting off quick little emails or posting to my blog using it. After a while, it made me wonder if I really needed Quicksilver at all for such a trivial task as launching an app. That’s when I rediscovered Spotlight. It’s built in, and can do all of the searching/launching I need to do without the overhead of running a separate app. It’s definitely worth looking into if that’s all you tend to use Quicksilver for.

    • Grace says:

      @Pete I agree, i’m always curious to see if there are other apps i can find out about from other designers.

      @Freeze B54 (3815) – Works great for me.

      @Tommy I have a large dock myself even though i use Quicksilver, i tend to forget to remove the apps! I did think about linking up the applications but thought it would be too time consuming. I may see how it goes for next week’s installment.

      @Michael Spotlight is amazing but i rely so heavily on Quicksilver for a variety of tasks, it’s one of the apps i would install first on a fresh OSX installation.

  5. Khoi says:

    Freeze: I use Quicksilver b54 (3815).

    Michael: I should give Spotlight another chance as you suggest. But I use Quicksilver for more than just launching apps. I use the Address Book feature more or less continuously all day. I also will jot notes in Quicksilver regularly. And I use it to open documents as well. So I think I’m getting more out of it than what Spotlight would be able to replace.

  6. SaraKate says:

    This is a great post, really interesting. Haven’t used Quicksilver before, but it sounds pretty rad. Might have to give it a go at some point.

    iBank & 1Password look pretty good, too.

  7. i used to like in using dock on my desktop, but i rather have a clean vision on my desktop now haha… much unique and interesting dock you may download from

  8. Andrew K says:

    weird that khoi doesnt have twitter client.. perhaps he has better things to do? I would install Tweetie and add 4 cool people to follow like @adhensel just for fun.

  9. Great concept for a post. It has me re-evaluating my own dock… Think I need to start using Quicksilver.

  10. Glenn C. says:

    Thanks Khoi & Grace! for another great Dock post. Quicksilver is awesome. Besides being my main launcher, I use it to do lightning-quick image resizing (e.g. A 2000px to a 150px, for avatars or whatnot). Apps that can open when documents are dragged onto them are on the Dock (i.e. CS, Textmate) :0)

    Anyway, thanks for a truly insightful series.

  11. Able Parris says:

    Interesting idea, showcasing dock’s.

    Khoi, I gotta say, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the size of your dock. I’m going to look into iBank.


  12. Clark says:

    I thought I was reading subtraction. Interesting series.

  13. Callie says:

    Okay, I just need to comment on this statement: “(Khoi) is also one of the recent pioneers of Grid based design.”

    Grid systems have been around for decades and I would hardly label anyone from our generation as pioneering their use. Shouldn’t this description belong to Josef Müller-Brockmann and his modernist contemporaries?

    No offense. I love as much as the next designer and greatly admire Khoi and the great work he does at the NY Times, but seriously….

    • Grace says:

      @SaraKate I can’t recommend Quicksilver enough, it is a fantastic app. I haven’t used iBank but i use 1Password which is far superior to the native Keychain.

      @Yofie Thanks for sharing the link to Rocket Dock

      @Andrew Not sure why Khoi doesn’t have a Twitter client in his dock, from his stream i can see he uses a combo of Tweetie, Tweetdeck and the web interface.

      @Johnny No problem Johnny, definitely get using Quicksilver 😉

      @Glenn Never used it to resize images, most give that a go, thanks for stopping by Glenn.

      @Eugenio Agreed.

      @Able As Khoi says it is a big dock, still Khoi does have some pretty interesting apps.

      @Clark Thanks Clark, make sure to check for future posts in the series every Tuesday.

      @Callie No offense taken at all. Although i never implied Khoi invented Grid systems or the use of them, simply that in the 2.0 web standards era he has been one of the recent pioneers with both his work and writing. Along with other designers such as Mark Boulton. Nor am i the first to actually refer to him as a recent pioneer.

      I appreciate your point though and thanks for visiting :-)

  14. Jon says:

    i prefer not to use the dock at all. i use spotlight to open applications and alt+tab and spaces to cycle between apps. I find that using spotlight significantly reduces mouse movement on larger monitors ( i use a 30″ and will never use anything smaller )

  15. Bart says:

    You should try using Adobe Fireworks in stead of Photoshop.
    Really, it’s a whole lot lighter and it has some features that are so good for web that I can’t live without it anymore.
    I don’t even get why web people use Photoshop anymore.

  16. Chris says:

    These sort of articles are useful for discovering new software. Never heard of Layers before. I probably wouldn’t have much use for it but I’ll give a spin nonetheless.

    I’ve been a long time fan of Quicksilver; as a launcher, iTunes controller and for sending quick email and tweets. Good for opening files in non-default software too. QS also allows me to rate music by ‘writing’ numbers and open certain websites using mouse gestures (hint: Abracadabra).

    Awesome app, and I definitely miss it when using someone else’s Mac.

    1Password save me a huge amount of time trying to remember passwords. Available for the iPhone and iPod Touch too.


  17. Anthony Starks says:

    Note that you can use Preview to combine PDFs: create a sidebar, drag the PDFs in, save:

  18. rmc says:

    I feel the same way about the CS4 upgrade. Doesn’t seem worth it, yet :)

  19. Hans Taktmann says:

    Uber-interesting, thanks! But you skipped over Yojimbo and TextWrangler. Would be interesting to know how you use those.

    Btw: Regarding Quicksilver, I’m in the LaunchBar-camp. Must be the genes . . .

    And, no editor (I thought it would fit well in a “subtraction”/”subtractive” workflow . . .)??! TextMate, BBEdit? Or, just plain-vanilla TextWrangler?


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