Custom Stacks Icons



Anyone else tired of a Dock’d Applications folder that seems to be a link to Address Book?

I’m hearing a lot of complaints in various forums and reviews about the icons of stacks in the dock, and not much in the way of solutions, so I thought I’d suggest the one that’s working for me. (There is a bigger post upcoming with a lot of tricks to Leopard, but I wanted to get this one out first, so that at least some people might be happier.)

The problem is simple: Stacks in the Dock show a pile of icons, with the topmost one being the one most recently accessed, or first in the alphabet, or whatever. This is frustrating a lot of people who have custom icons for the folders in their docks, as instead of the custom icon, the stack icon is a changeable picture, usually of the object that starts with A. Many are grumbling about bad UI design with this, as we are used to the icons that we had representing the folders that were plainly used so much that we thought they deserved a place in the dock. And yes, in my opinion, it is a design flaw. There’s a reason for distinctive icons in the Dock – they’re a mnemonic toy, and a representation of everything under that icon. (I know I’m not alone in thinking that Address Book, which I hardly ever use, is not a good symbol for my applications folder.)

The simple fix? First, find that icon that you liked so much before. Now, rename it. Try something like “_ Proper Applications Icon” – anything with a non-alphanumeric character should do.folder When you put that icon in the stacked folder, so long as your stack is set to sort by name (command-click on the stack, and choose ‘Sort by’), that icon will stay on the top of the stack. To illustrate my point, to the left is my Dock, after I added a better icon to the Utilities stack, and to the right is a snip of my Applications stack’s grid view after I put an icon in there. There’s still the slight aberration of the other icons sticking out from behind the folder in the Dock, true, but it’s much better than staring at Address Book.

Icons from David Lanham’s Agua set.



I don’t know if this works for Leopard, but in snow leopard you can change the icon for the folder you want represented in the dock, then control-click/right-click on the icon in dock and choose “Display as Folder”. your new icon will show instead of the stack. After you reboot once, it should stay that way no matter what.


…or maybe select the option “Display as: Folder” instead of stack. (Snow Leopard)

Stephen Kane

In Snow Leopard, right click the stack and change the display from stack the folder.


You don’t need to add dummy aliases or folders to change the appearance of the stacks icons. Just Shift-Ctrl-Click and select “Display As Folder”.

You may probably know this already, but Shift-Option-Click will give you that slow-motion effect that Steve used in the keynote…

Hope this helps.


Well, it sort of works. I have a nice applications folder icon there now with bits of the Address Book icon peeking out from around it and bits of the Adium icon peeking around that. It still looks like a horrid jumbled mess!

Silus Grok

@NM: I should have been clearer… I was suggesting a folder with a custom icon at the “top” of the folder which would then be placed on the doc.

It’s the same concept being used in the link you just shared.


But thank you for getting back to me… even if it was just a misunderstanding.


@Silus Grok:

Making an alias and putting it in the Dock indeed shows only the Icon of the folder you make the alias from (and the little arrow in the lower left corner). Unfortunately clicking an alias results in the content of the original folder being displayed in the Finder, rather than showing its content right in the Dock.


Thanks for the tip. It’s a handy one.

The only problem is that you still end up with a stack of all the other icons beneath the new one so it’s not as clean as pre-Leopard. Oh, well.


Good temporary trick for bypassing the problem—for now. Hopefully, Apple will revise the behavior of stacks to allow users to choose a custom icon to represent the stack and also allow for navigating the nested folders in a stack. That is another feature that is sorely missed in the OSX.


what I ended up doing was creating an alias of the application folder, and placing it the applications folder. Then I set the sort to “type”. I know it sounds redundant, but now I get the applications folder on the dock instead of my address book.

Stephanie Guertin

@Steve – Depends on what you’re looking for and how you define ‘good.’ I’m very partial to the Agua set that is linked above; it’s very clean-lined and simple. I do, however, use a lot of individual icons from various sites and developers. Try,, and – all have a large selection of nicely designed sets.

Silus Grok

I was thinking that making a folder — I’ll put mine in my Documents folder — then giving it a custom icon and moving aliases of all the things I want in the stack to it and placing that folder in the doc… but I don’t have Leopard yet, so can’t test it.

The beauty, here, is that I can have a non-standard set of items. I’ll have one, for example, with all the stuff I use in the morning — and I’ll use the sun from the weather widget at the icon.

Just a thought.


You just made my Leopard experience so much better. That’s the only thing that has been driving me absolutely nuts. What a blunder on Apple’s part. I guess they’re entitled to one colossal goof-up per OS!

Henry Harrison

This gets my vote for best lo-tech hint for Leopard so far, I love it and it sorts the problem out very neatly!

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