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Stacks (Mac OS)

This article is about the Mac OS X software feature. For other uses, see Stacks (disambiguation).

Stacks in Grid View, as seen in Snow Leopard.

Stacks are a feature first found in Apple's operating system, Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard". As the name implies, they "stack" files into a small organized folder on the Dock. At the WWDC07 Keynote Presentation, Steve Jobs stated that in Leopard, the user will be given a default stack called Downloads, in which all downloaded content will be placed.

In the initial release of Leopard, Stacks could be shown two ways, in a "fan" or a "grid". With the release of the 10.5.2 update, a third "list" view was added. This list view allows folder icons to display their contents in pop-out side menus. Originally, if the fan view was too long to fit within the screen, it was automatically displayed as a grid. The user could also choose to have a fan stack always display as a grid, but they could not choose to make it fan out (due to the reason above). After the update, the top item in the fan would allow the user to open the folder in the Finder.

The list view also shows an Options pop-out menu which, when opened, allows users to change the display method used by the Stack (fan, grid or list), the order items in the Stack are displayed (by name, date created, date modified, date added and kind), and the appearance of the Stack icon in the dock (folder or stack). These options are available in the other three methods by either right-clicking on the icon with the right button of a two-button mouse, or by holding down the Control key on the keyboard while simultaneously clicking with a one-button mouse. Holding down the primary mouse button will target the contextual menu as well.

With the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Stacks have been further enhanced. Stacks will allow viewing a subfolder without moving to a Finder window. Stacks have also been modified to include scroll-bars for folders with many files.


Critics[who?] of Stacks stated that Stacks as originally conceived had several usability issues that might not appeal to all users of Mac OS X Leopard:

  • The complete elimination of classic Dock folder list menus with hierarchical folder browsing, a feature which had existed since the initial 10.0 release. However, "List" view has been added to OS 10.5.2.
  • The emphasis of form over function in Stacks icon displays—fan arcs are considered visually appealing but of dubious functional value[by whom?] (although others[who?] noted that the arcing form clearly differentiates an open stack from the grid of files and volumes that may be on the desktop below).
  • In Mac OS X Leopard, the grid view truncated file names, and its maximum number of icons was dependent on monitor resolution (e.g. 63 icons max at 1280x800). This was corrected with the scrollable stacks in Snow Leopard.
  • Dock icons for "Folder" stacks that are often misleading because Stacks build icons from folder contents and do not allow for custom icons to be applied by the user. For example, a user's Home folder shows the Applications folder (or if that does not exist in Home folder, the Desktop folder), while the Photos folder is just a "stack" of plain blue folders created by iPhoto. However, this was addressed with OS 10.5.2: you can now choose to represent a stack with its original Folder icon, as displayed in Finder.
  • Stacks can accidentally be removed. Though it is a relatively simple process in replacing the stack, many users do not know how to replace them, thus causing trouble.