Last week we explained how you can use a simple Terminal command to insert spaces in your macOS Dock and visibly group together app icons. In this article, we're going to highlight another simple Terminal hack that turns the Dock into more of a straightforward app switcher by making it display only apps that are currently running on your Mac.

macos dock only open apps
Seeing only active apps at the bottom of your desktop can be a refreshing change if your Dock has become cluttered with various app shortcuts over time, and you can always use Spotlight (key combination Command-Space to activate) or an alternative method to launch your Mac apps.

When following the simple steps below, just bear in mind that Terminal is a powerful app, so make sure you enter the commands properly, especially if you're not familiar with it.

How to Show Only Active Apps in Your Dock

  1. Launch the Terminal app found in Applications/Utilities. (To quickly open the Utilities folder in Finder, select Go -> Utilities from the menu bar, or use the key shortcut Shift-Command-U.)

  2. At the Terminal prompt, type the following command and press Enter: defaults write com.apple.dock static-only -bool true; killall Dock
    recent apps only dock Terminal command

  3. Your Dock will reboot in order to show only the currently running apps on your Mac in the order they were launched.
    mac dock only active apps

How to Revert the Dock Back to Its Original State

If you decide you don't like this way of using the Dock, follow the steps below to return it to its usual behavior.

  1. Launch the Terminal app again if it's not already open.

  2. At the Terminal prompt, type the following command and press Enter: defaults write com.apple.dock static-only -bool false; killall Dock

  3. Your Dock will reboot and revert to showing both running and non-running apps.

If there's a specific active app that you'd like to hide from the Dock for whatever reason, there are a couple of third-party utilities that might help. Dock Dodger is a free drag-and-drop tool that can hide certain apps from the Dock even when they're running (once placed on the tool's droplet, you have to restart the app in question to hide it, although our success rate varied depending on the app). If you're willing to open your wallet, GhostTile is a more recent and reliable paid-for alternative with similar functionality.

Top Rated Comments

sunapple Avatar
57 months ago
What’s the difference with removing all apps from the Dock and opening new ones from another place?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
frou Avatar
57 months ago
For the longest time, I have simply dragged all of the default app "shortcuts" off of my Dock, and used Spotlight via the keyboard to launch everything.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sp3k0psv3t Avatar
57 months ago
This is nice. Really cleans things up a bit since I have a gazillion apps in my dock lol.

Thanks for the tutorial.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amazing Iceman Avatar
57 months ago
I hardly use the dock to launch apps. Using [COMMAND] [SPACE] and typing the app name to launch it is a faster approach.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sirozha Avatar
57 months ago
I don't get this tip.

After I implemented this command, I was able to right-click on the icons of the running apps and select "Keep in Dock". After that, when I closed the apps, their icons remained on the Dock. So, how is this different from just dragging all your icons off the dock one at a time?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chabig Avatar
57 months ago
Just apply the technique and then add the download folder manually (drag it to the dock).
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
Apple Watch Series 7 Starlight Midnight

Standard Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature Same Design as Series 7

Friday August 5, 2022 7:46 am PDT by
The standard 41mm and 45mm models of the Apple Watch Series 8 will feature the same design as the Apple Watch Series 7, according to Twitter user @ShrimpApplePro, who was first to reveal that iPhone 14 Pro models would feature a new pill-and-hole display. Titanium will not be an option for the standard Apple Watch Series 8 models either, according to @ShrimpApplePro, but Bloomberg's Mark...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone X and the iPhone XS. Battery percent...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
ipad pro magic keyboard white

Rumor Claims Next iPad Pro to Feature New Four-Pin Smart Connector

Sunday August 7, 2022 11:57 am PDT by
A new rumor claims that the next-generation 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro will feature a new four-pin Smart Connector, an update from the current three-pin connector in the iPad Pro. The rumor from Mac Otakara, citing "reliable sources," says that the next iPad Pro, expected to debut possibly as soon as this fall, will feature a new Smart Connector that has four-pins rather than three. The...