Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): Disabling Exposé in Dock menus

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 6th, 2009 • 4:16 pm

If you are highly sensitive to responsiveness issues like me, you probably do not much like the new “feature” in Snow Leopard where clicking and holding on an application icon in the Dock, instead of giving you the expected pop-up menu, gives you some kind of weird UI hybrid that shows Exposé thumbnails of the application’s document windows in some kind of pop-up menu called an “Exposé menu.”

This feature goes together with the new feature in Snow Leopard that causes the amber button to minimize a document window into its parent application’s Dock icon instead of adding it to the right-hand side of the Dock.

My problem with the new feature when clicking and holding on an application icon in the Dock is that it is too bloody slow, even on my brand new Mac Pro with tons of RAM and a fast graphics card.

I much prefer getting the regular text-only menu with a list of the titles of the application’s document windows.

You can still get that menu instead of the weird menu/Exposé hybrid by right-clicking or control-clicking on the application’s Dock icon, but over the past eight years I have developed a habit of just clicking and holding, and it’s hard to get rid of.

Well, Betalogue reader Bruce McL has just sent me a link to this hint at Mac OS X Hints that reveals a hidden Dock preference that enables you to change the Dock behaviour in Snow Leopard back to the way it was in Leopard.

You just need to enter this command in Terminal:

defaults write show-expose-menus -bool no

After restarting the Dock (with killall Dock or with another utility), you will now have a Dock where clicking and holding on an application icon gives you the same menu as the one you get with control-clicking. And it’s instantaneous. Yey!

And just so you know, changing this setting does not disable the other feature, i.e. the “Minimize windows into application icon” feature. It still works. You just don’t have to deal with slow Exposé crap anymore.

I don’t know if I am just overly sensitive to responsiveness issues, but I simply have never been able to get used to the sluggishness of Mac OS X’s Exposé or Exposé-related features. There is always hope that the next generation of machines will be fast enough to actually execute the various supposedly slick visual effects smoothly, but I have yet to see such a machine. (It might also have to do with the fact that I typically have lots of windows open in my applications. Maybe Exposé is smoother for people who only work with a few windows at a time. But then, if it only works well with a small number of windows, what’s the point of it?)

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