From MacJournals, Let’s make it “Understand the Dock Day” instead:
Yet from the first public descriptions of “Mac OS X” from Apple, the company has made it clear that the Dock is not optional and not replaceable. It’s a poor amalgamation of a program launcher, status center, and application menu/switcher–but Apple has affirmatively acted at every revision to make sure that you can’t do away with it without losing access to exclusive features like badges, notifications, and Dock menus.
I read this piece and nodded my head in agreement with every point, but there’s one point I’d differ with: the Dock is optional, and you can live without it. There’s a minority of people who do, including me.
The gist of the MacJournals argument is that you need the Dock visible to make use of its unique ability to display changing icons. Third-party Dock alternatives like Dragthing often do the Dock’s job better than the Dock does, but they cannot display dynamic icons - those icons that act as status indicators in the Dock.
Personally, I think the Menu Bar is a much better place for anything that displays any kind of small-scale, constantly changing information. That’s where I want my status indicators to live. I don’t want them in the Dock. The Menu Bar takes up less space than the Dock, and is always present without being intrusive.
Furthermore, a little searching uncovers third-party Menu Bar status displays for many commonly used Apple apps. What to keep an eye on the unread message count in Mail? Try Mail Unread Menu. Need access to iCal? MenuCalendarClock or High Priority might do the trick.
I’ve been living without the Dock for a while now, probably 18 months or so. I didn’t bother to kill the process - as the MacJournals article points out, that would also kill Dashboard, which I occasionally make use of - I just kept it hidden out of sight. It’s no big deal. And on the rare occasion when I need to drag something to a Dock icon (this happens about once a month), it’s right there.
Using a combination of Quicksilver for launching apps and finding files, the Menu Bar for keeping me informed about what the system is doing, and my frequent use of Command+Tab to remind me what’s running, I managed to go Dockless without any problems.