Launching your entire Dock at once

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Dock Dock

Get your nerd hat on.

I keep my Dock very trim. The only apps that have a permanent home there are apps that I either have to have running all day, or apps that I choose to have running all day. However, I don’t make them launch items. Booting up can be slow enough without trying to launch five heavy apps at the same time that everything else is loading.

More often than not, I need them all at once (Adium, Skype, Twitter, Mail, Sublime Text, iTerm 2 right now, if you’re wondering). I’ve been thinking for a while that I should write a quick AppleScript to just launch them all at once. Then I thought about how much my app selection changes over time, and the minutes of my life I would lose maintaining such a script.

Then, I realized that the Dock itself could be a dynamic launch group. With the way I use my Dock, it makes perfect sense to just launch whatever is in the Dock at the time that hasn’t already launched. The Dock happens to store a list of all of its permanent residents in a the defaults system, and you can read them out and run the ever handy open command on the list. It’s so easy it’s a one-liner that can be scripted into a LaunchBar or Alfred command, run with FastScripts at the push of a button or even wrapped up and made into a Desktop button1. Here’s the script, broken out for readability:

for app in $(defaults read persistent-apps|\
grep bundle-identifier | awk '{print $3}'| tr -d '";'); do 
	open -bg $app

defaults reads out the array stored in the persistent-apps key, grep pulls out just the lines with the bundle ids, awk extracts the ids and tr cleans out semicolons and quotes. The result of that part looks like this (for me…):


Then the shell script just passes one line at a time to the OS X-specific open command. The -b option tells it I’m passing a bundle id, and the -g launches the apps in the background so I can keep working on whatever I might be doing without interruption. There’s also a -j option to launch the apps completely hidden.

Update: Keith Smiley offers a slightly modified version that handles some edge cases.

As a side note, one other open command option of interest is -F, for opening applications “fresh”; without restoring their windows. It doesn’t work with every app (Sublime Text 2 is incorrigible in that regard), but it’s handy most of the time. I don’t recall seeing it in Lion, but I could be wrong.

  1. That’s definitely the lack of sleep talking.