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
38 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
38 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
38 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
38 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
38 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
38 months ago
Just apply the technique and then add the download folder manually (drag it to the dock).
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
apple store macarthur center

Apple Store at MacArthur Center in Virginia Permanently Closing Following Years of Safety Issues at Shopping Mall

Thursday February 25, 2021 4:45 pm PST by
Apple today indicated that its retail store at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Virginia will be permanently closing after over 14 years of business, although an exact closure date has yet to be announced by the company. Apple has assured that it will be offering all employees at the store other positions within Apple, and said that it looks forward to continuing to serve...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
apple refurbished m1 mac mini

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished M1 Mac Mini

Thursday February 25, 2021 6:42 pm PST by
Apple today began selling certified refurbished Mac mini models with the M1 chip for the first time in the United States and Canada, with prices discounted by approximately 15 percent compared to brand new models as usual. For example, a refurbished Mac mini with the M1 chip, 256GB of SSD storage, and 16GB of unified memory is available for $759, compared to $899 brand new. Other custom...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...