Hands On: uBar for the Mac shrinks your Dock and makes it work harder for you

Posted:
in Mac Software edited July 2018
It's a distinctive part of your Mac but the Dock is big and it doesn't do a lot. Now, uBar wants to replace it with a tool that saves space and adds functionality. AppleInsider tries it out.




We were only saying the other day that our Docks are getting a bit full. Of course there is always the option to remove applications from it and, true, there are apps in our Dock that we haven't opened in months. Yet tidying up is foolish talk and especially so when instead you can use uBar 4.0.7 to remove or at least postpone having to do anything.

This app was made for us. Currently our regular macOS Dock holds 50 items. That does include the Trash, the Finder, Siri and the App Store. It also includes one document, a FileMaker Pro database that we use daily. However, everything else is an app we have chosen to add there. For some reason.

Often, down the road, we've forgotten the reason. For instance, it's a mystery why we have that FileMaker Pro document when every single day we forget it's there and instead open the FileMaker app. The FileMaker Pro app is of course in our Dock.

Truly, looking at it for you now, we can see instantly where we should cut back. That document can go and it might as well be followed by iBooks as we always read those on our iPad.

That brings us down to 48 items in the Dock and that's far more sensible.

Or rather it is when you replace your regular Dock with uBar 4. Our 48 items stretch across the full width of our 27-inch iMac screen. By comparison, uBar gives us at least all the same functionality but does so in just under half the space.

Compare and contrast. At the bottom is our regular macOS Dock. In the middle is uBar showing names alongside every app. Then at the top there is uBar when it's only showing app icons.




That's half the space for the items we already have and yet uBar also adds two more. One is a handy thing to have: it's a clock that sits at one end of the Dock and looks a little reminiscent of the one in the Windows taskbar.

If you hover over that clock, though, the concise digital display springs up into an analog watch face plus a calendar.

You can't use the calendar for anything other than checking the date -- it doesn't show appointments -- but it's nicely designed and it does its job. We might not buy uBar for it, but when you've got it, you like it.

Whereas the other extra item uBar adds is very much worth buying the whole app for. It's a little uBar icon that by default sits at the very left of your screen and can be configured to spring up into life with a single keystroke.




When you press that key, you are also transported to Windows-land but with a bit of class and style. The uBar icon displays a popup menu with options for system sleep or shut down. It's got quick access to your documents, music and more. Plus it's a fairly quick route to your applications.

Your mileage will vary there, with any luck, because as well as a lot of Dock items we do rather hoard apps. This makes uBar's list of them take an age to scroll down. You can, though, tap a letter when you're scrolling and it will leap to the apps beginning with that.

Much faster and to our mind far more convenient is the quick access to each individual part of System Preferences. Rather than finding System Preferences and then searching for what you need, this lets you get to, say, the Dock preferences with one tap and a few presses of your arrow keys.

It would be good if you could use those arrow keys to move along uBar's version of the Dock but you can't. That's mouse- or trackpad-only. When you go to click on an app, though, you can hover for a moment and get a preview of it. If it's a writing app then you might see a shrunken preview of the documents currently open in it.




If the app isn't something that uBar can recognize or perform a Quick Look on then you just get the app's icon. However, if you've got three documents open in such an app, you'll get three icons and it's clear how to pick from them.

That's handy. The one-key uBar menu is a startling time-saver. The ability to choose whether your apps are displayed as small icons or together with their names is excellent. Plus that clock is first-class.

Only, call us traditionalists, but we like the macOS Dock. We promise to use it better.

In the meantime, though, uBar 4 costs $30 for an individual licence and requires macOS 10.10 or higher. It's available direct from the developer or as part of Setapp.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    The curious must ask, what filmmaker pro database are you compelled to use every day?  uBar seems like it might have even more potential with spaces.  Would be truly interesting to see you push the limits on what BetterTouchTool, TouchBar, uBar, and Spaces looks like for writers, accountants, graphic artists, etc.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,833member
    I will look at this.  One of the things I prefer in Windows 10 is the way windows of an application that are minimized are only seen and accessed by hovering over the application icon, not as with macOS adding to the cluttered dock.

    EDIT: Ok after 5 minutes use I love it!  Not tried in Mojave yet.
    edited July 2018
  • Reply 3 of 22
    majorslmajorsl Posts: 59unconfirmed, member
    Whoa, this is cool! It reminds me of the various menubar shrinking/menu accessories from the OS8/9 days.  Very functional!
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,859administrator
    The curious must ask, what filmmaker pro database are you compelled to use every day?  uBar seems like it might have even more potential with spaces.  Would be truly interesting to see you push the limits on what BetterTouchTool, TouchBar, uBar, and Spaces looks like for writers, accountants, graphic artists, etc.
    William has been using FileMaker for years. He's done AI's most recent examination of it as well.

    AFAIK, his invoicing and billing for his business are run on it.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,833member
    majorsl said:
    Whoa, this is cool! It reminds me of the various menubar shrinking/menu accessories from the OS8/9 days.  Very functional!
    Exactly my thoughts.  I have written to uBar suggesting nesting tabs in Safari as at the moment it only displays the first page.  Also, I see you have to add to favorites to have the drag-onto-to-open feature.  It would be nice if a dragged document could open the uBar/Applications pop up menu and allow open.  At least you'd then have a way to drag to open for non-favorites.
    edited July 2018
  • Reply 6 of 22
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 202member
    However nice this utility is, why would you want two clocks on your screen?
  • Reply 7 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,859administrator
    georgie01 said:
    However nice this utility is, why would you want two clocks on your screen?
    William is in the UK, but works on an east coast US time.

    Not for everybody. Just an option.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,002member
    I keep no more than 12 items in the OS Dock. When I get a new Mac, the first thing I do is pull the less and seldom used apps from the Dock. They're replaced with what I use frequently, and only a few more are added.

    Then I have a folder with six apps that don't make the cut for their own space in the Dock. Spotlight serves as my launcher for apps that aren't in the Dock or folder. I'm glad I don't need to keep a bunch of items in the Dock.
    roundaboutnow
  • Reply 9 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,833member
    OK, I retract my earlier enthusiasm.  After several hours of working uBar drove me nuts.  It slowed my workflow dramatically.  My initial reaction I now put down to novelty but I now think tidying up my dock is the better way to go.
    rich gregorycornchiplamboaudi4roundaboutnow
  • Reply 10 of 22
    gerry ggerry g Posts: 28member
    yes used to use something similar in OS9, very Windows very tedious in the long run, found Drag Things for Snow Leopard better and faster because it was icon based (no drilling down through infinite menus) it was much like Launch Pad but way more configurable and this would be my gold standard for dumping the Dock a gesture invoked interface, icon based, with full user control and editability
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Was gonna purchase, but the license only covers 2 macs ... I actively use 4. Oh well.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 23member
    Based on looks alone, those who always wanted Windows 10's Taskbar on their Mac will be happy.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    It looks awful and reminds me of windows.  No thank you. 
  • Reply 14 of 22
    netlingnetling Posts: 33member
    XMenu is a great free alternative to having an applications, Documents,etc in the menu bar. 

    https://www.devontechnologies.com/products/freeware.html
    edited July 2018 sandor
  • Reply 15 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,398member
    MacPro said:
    OK, I retract my earlier enthusiasm.  After several hours of working uBar drove me nuts.  It slowed my workflow dramatically.  My initial reaction I now put down to novelty but I now think tidying up my dock is the better way to go.
    Give XMenu a look. I’ve been using it for years and like it:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/xmenu/id419332741


    sandor
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,517member
    macgui said:
    I keep no more than 12 items in the OS Dock. When I get a new Mac, the first thing I do is pull the less and seldom used apps from the Dock. They're replaced with what I use frequently, and only a few more are added.

    Then I have a folder with six apps that don't make the cut for their own space in the Dock. Spotlight serves as my launcher for apps that aren't in the Dock or folder. I'm glad I don't need to keep a bunch of items in the Dock.
    A sensible way to organise your UI no matter what the platform. 

  • Reply 17 of 22
    DragThing is best of breed in this department.

    https://www.dragthing.com
  • Reply 18 of 22
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 360member
    MacPro said:
    OK, I retract my earlier enthusiasm.  After several hours of working uBar drove me nuts.  It slowed my workflow dramatically.  My initial reaction I now put down to novelty but I now think tidying up my dock is the better way to go.
    Thank you. I was on the fence, but you just saved me thirty clams.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    I use what Apple provided me, for free. Launchpad. My dock has been on a serious diet since Launchpad. I just use the thumb-three finger pinch on the trackpad and I'm in! My first page in Launchpad is everything I need (folders too!) totally replaced my Dock (currently only have 6 items on the Dock)

    For files access a quick COMM-N gets my finder. 

    Best solution for me and I don't have to spend any money. 


  • Reply 20 of 22
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,337member
    Considering how many people use 1 or 2 extra screens, I don’t understand why we can’t have separate docks for each screen.
    People will generally favour a certain screen for certain apps like a larger screen for editing or watching videos etc.
    So why not have a dock for that screen?
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