Use Terminal or cDock to Control the Dock's Appearance

It's Easy to Choose Between a 2D or 3D Dock

cDock themes for your Mac's Dock
cDock lets you apply themes to your Mac's Dock. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac's Dock has undergone a few revisions over time. It started life as a basic 2D Dock that was flat and slightly translucent and included the original Aqua pinstripe interface elements that were part of OS X Puma.

OS X Cheetah and Tiger's Dock looked the same, although the Aqua pinstripes were gone.

OS X Leopard (10.5.x) introduced the 3D Dock, which makes Dock icons appear to be standing up on a ledge.

Some people like the new look and some prefer the older 2D look from OS X Tiger (10.4.x). OS X Mountain Lion and Mavericks kept the 3D look by adding a glass-like appearance to the Dock ledge.

With the release of OS X Yosemite, the Dock reverted to its original 2D look, minus the Aqua-themed pinstripes.

If the 3D Dock isn’t to your taste, you can use Terminal to switch to the 2D visual implementation. Can’t decide? Try them both. Changing from one to the other takes a matter of minutes.

There are two basic methods of changing the Dock's look from 2D to 3D and back again. The first makes use of Terminal; this tip will work with OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion. The second method makes use of a third-party app called cDock, which not only can change the 2D/3D aspect of the Dock, but also provides quite a few other customizations you can perform on the Dock.

Up first, the Terminal method.

Use Terminal to Apply a 2D Effect to the Dock

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command line into Terminal. You can copy/paste the text into Terminal, or you can simply type the text as shown. The command is a single line of text, but your browser may break it into multiple lines. Be sure to enter the command as a single line in the Terminal application.
    defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES
  1. Press enter or return.
  2. Enter the following text into Terminal. If you type the text rather than copy/paste it, be sure to match the case of the text.killall Dock
  3. Press enter or return.
  4. The Dock will disappear for a moment and then reappear.
  5. Enter the following text into Terminal.exit
  6. Press enter or return.
  7. The exit command will cause Terminal to end the current session. You can then quit the Terminal application.

Use Terminal to Apply a 3D Effect to the Dock

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command line into Terminal. You can copy/paste the text into Terminal, or you can simply type the text as shown. The command is a single line of text, but your browser may break it into multiple lines. Be sure to enter the command as a single line in the Terminal application.defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean NO
  3. Press enter or return.
  4. Enter the following text into Terminal. If you type the text rather than copy/paste it, be sure to match the case of the text.
    killall Dock
  5. Press enter or return.
  6. The Dock will disappear for a moment and then reappear.
  7. Enter the following text into Terminal.exit
  8. Press enter or return.
  9. The exit command will cause Terminal to end the current session. You can then quit the Terminal application.

    Using cDock

    For OS X Mavericks or later you can use cDock, a utility that gives you the ability to alter the 2D/3D aspect of the Dock as well as control transparency, use custom indicators, control icon shadows, and reflections, add or remove Dock spacers, and a bit more.

    If you're using OS X Mavericks or OS X Yosemite, cDock is a simple installation; just download cDock, move the app to your /Applications folder, and then launch it.

    cDock and SIP

    Those of you using OS X El Capitan or later have a rougher install ahead of you. cDock works by installing SIMBL (SIMple Bundle Loader), an InputManager loader that allows developers to add capabilities to existing system processes, such as the Dock.

    With the release of El Capitan, Apple added SIP (System Integrity Protection), a security measure that prevents potentially malicious software from modifying protected resources on your Mac.

    cDock itself is by no means malicious, but the methods it uses for modifying the Dock are prevented by the SIP security system.

    If you want to use cDock on OS X El Capitan or later, you must first disable the SIP system, and then install cDock. I don’t actually recommend disabling SIP just to be able to apply a 2D/3D Dock, but the choice is yours to make. cDock includes the instructions for how to disable SIP.

    The SIP instructions in cDock do not include the steps for turning SIP back on. Once you have successfully installed cDock, you can turn the system protection system back on; you don’t need to leave it turned off. Here are the steps for turning SIP back on.

    Enable SIP

    • Start your Mac using the Recovery partition.
    • Launch Terminal from the Recovery partition, and then enter the following command:
      csrutil enable
    • Press Return or Enter.
    • Quit Terminal.
    • Restart your Mac normally.

    That’s it for this tip. The 2D and 3D versions of the Dock have exactly the same functionality. It’s just a matter of deciding which visual style you prefer and whether you want to mess around with the Mac's SIP security system.

    Reference

    defaults man page

    killall man page