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Dock (computing)

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Subject: Dock, History of the graphical user interface, NeXT, NeXTSTEP, OpenStep, Fitts's law, X window manager, RISC OS, SkyOS, Dock (OS X)
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Dock (computing)

For the hardware device, see Docking station.

A dock or Quick Launch bar is a graphical user interface element that typically provides the user with a way of launching, switching between, and monitoring running programs or applications. The dock can exist as an autonomous entity or incorporated within another GUI element, such as a Taskbar.

The earliest implementation of what we now know as a dock was the icon bar in RISC OS, released in 1987.[1]

Appearance of Acorn's icon bar in 1987 under Arthur, after launching a number of devices and applications

Other early implementations of the dock concept include the Dock at the right side of the screen in NeXT's NEXTSTEP operating system in 1988 (which led to Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X). The Common Desktop Environment that Sun Microsystems and others introduced in 1993 uses a dock. In 1994, OS/2 3.0 Warp also introduced a floating dock to its interface similar on CDE.

Microsoft Office provided the Office Shortcut Bar between the 1993 version 4.0 and XP versions of the product, similar functionality has been offered via a section of the Windows task bar, in all variants since Windows 98, or on Windows 95 or NT 4.0 systems patched with the Windows Desktop Update.

AmigaOS 3.9 and newer versions include a standard dock utility called AmiDock. It was a third party freeware utility which became de facto standard into AmigaOS previous than 3.9 and then included in the OS since AmigaOS 3.9 launch in 2000. AROS Intel based AmigaOS clone keeps available to its users the freeware utility called Amistart, and leave them free to install it. MorphOS has its own docking utility included standard into the system, but is not compatible with Amiga Amidock.

Other dock implementations included: Apple's Newton OS in 1993 and iOS (iPhone OS In 2007-June 2010) in 2007, and a variety of third party applications are available that can add dock features to operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Linux. The patent on Apple's desktop implementation was applied for in 1999, the year before the new Mac OS X interface was first publicly demonstrated, and granted in October 2008.[2]

Early beta versions of Be Inc's BeOS had an icon containing dock located on the left hand side of the screen, before they developed their own hybrid taskbar approach. The Xfce desktop environment and the Étoilé desktop environment are open source projects that provide docks inspired by CDE and OS X respectively.

See also


  • The new Windows 7 taskbar
  • Mac 101 "The Dock"
  • Linux Docks
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