Windows added – and is still adding – a variety of features to become more user-friendly. However, anyone who’s used macOS would notice one glaring omission: an app dock. As with most things Windows is missing, there are third-party tools to fix it, including Windows app docks, which give your desktop that extra bit of slickness.
Note: Most of the “vanilla” Windows dock apps haven’t been updated in a long time, and the best modern options require you to use an additional desktop customization tool called Rainmeter. It means you’ll need to do a bit more work to get your dock, but it’s totally worth it! If you don’t want to go through the trouble, then we also have a few non-Rainmeter docks for you.
How to Install and Uninstall Rainmeter App Docks
To get you started, here’s a brief summary of how to work with Rainmeter-based app docks in Windows. (You can install/uninstall non-Rainmeter docks as you do any other app.)
- Download and install the latest version of Rainmeter. It supports everything from Windows 7 and above, all the way to Windows 11.
- Rainmeter has its own skin installer in the form of the .rmskin file extension. You cannot open it with any other Windows app. Various .rmskin files can be downloaded from the collections available with DeviantArt, Visualskins, SourceForge and other sources.
- Double-click on the downloaded .rmskin file to be promoted to click the “Install” button.
- View the Rainmeter app dock on your desktop.
- To organize your Rainmeter-based app docks, right-click on an open space inside the dock to manage and edit the skin and add new apps to the dock.
- Each installed Rainmeter-based app dock has a “basic.ini” and “Advanced.ini” menu under “Active skins.” This is where you can change the display settings.
- To uninstall a Rainmeter app dock, right-click anywhere and click “Unload skin.”
1. Silmeria (Rainmeter)
Silmeria is one of the more popular docks available through Rainmeter and has that bold, sharp-angled feel of a Windows Start menu tile. It feels perfectly appropriate for Windows. First create a free DeviantArt account to download the Silmeria .rmskin file, then double-click on it to install the Silmeria app dock on your computer.
You can customize Silmeria in various ways, such as adding thin white bars in the areas where you want docks so that you can hover your mouse over them to make the dock appear. When you hover over a dock app, the colors invert, giving a clear indicator of what you’ve highlighted.
2. Momento (Rainmeter)
Once you come to grips with Rainmeter, the possibilities of the kind of docks, icons and other desktop elements you can use expand immeasurably. Momento is just one of hundreds of examples of beautiful docks that can be used with the Rainmeter app.
Its flat, elegant interface clearly displays all the information you need, and it’s tight enough that you can squeeze plenty of icons into it. The black-and-white look gives it a cleanliness that you sometimes lose with all the multicolored icons representing the different software on your PC.
3. Material Taskbar (Rainmeter)
Material Taskbar is should motivate you to get Rainmeter for your Windows customization needs. It’s loosely inspired by the Android design style and all about base color-coding and flat clear information. As with a proper dock, it can contain not only your favorite software, but also extra functions like the recycle bin and a power button.
There’s quite a bit of flexibility with it too. You can mess around with the colors and get rid of the “board” that the bar sits on so that you only see the icons. Alternatively, go for a fully monochrome style.
4. Darth Vader (Rainmeter)
This is the ultimate treat for fans of the Star Wars franchise. The Darth Vader Rainmeter theme transforms your desktop into a cybernetic reality. All your installed Windows apps get a clickable futuristic makeover. Chrome, Skype, Picasa, Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, and Excel are placed on the Death Star.
From Darth himself to R2-D2, all the Star Wars characters will help open your files and applications. For further customization, you can add your own favorite character variants in the “Settings and Manage” skin menu. Why settle for the boring Windows taskbar when you can populate it with the entire Star Wars universe?
5. Steampunk (Rainmeter)
If you like the sight and sound of steam on 19th-century machinery, Rainmeter’s Steampunk collection gives you the best possible audio-visual delight. These complicated bars and dials will transform your desktop from a digital interface to analog equipment belonging to the Industrial Age.
The Steampunk display just doesn’t show an analog clock. It also gives you overall CPU usage, RAM usage, Wi-Fi signal strength, and other vital computer data. A featured music player lets you play any MP3 or MP4 file right from the desktop.
If you don’t mind the sound of gears meshing at each click, you’ll love every bit of this relic from the past. You can add more gears to the mesh pile from the “Settings” section.
6. Neon Space (Rainmeter)
This Rainmeter app dock theme is inspired by the Neon Space video game. Unlike the other Sci-Fi desktop displays, it is a bit more subtle as it blends into your desktop background. You barely notice anything until you start your work with the different heads-up display (HUD) tabs.
At a glance, you can see everything ranging from time, weather, battery level, RAM utilization, network connection status, and more. You can open any music player you have, and an “HUD for Internet” launcher allows you to open any online links saved to your computer.
The Neon Space app dock is definitely cool, but if you want more outer space options in Rainmeter, you will have to search online.
7. Winstep Nexus
It’s hard to beat the power of Winstep’s Nexus docking system, as it’s one of the most current and offers a completely free version. Many others work with Windows 10/11 but haven’t been officially updated for these versions of the OS.
The free version provides a single dock, which may be all you want or need. It also works much like your taskbar by displaying currently running applications.
However, the premium version is just $17.95 and works extremely well for multitasking and power users. You get multiple, tabbed, and sub-docks along with numerous organization and customization options.
On the downside, uninstalling Nexus from Windows can be tricky. Unlike the Rainmeter skins above, this program is very persistent and just won’t leave you alone. To proceed with uninstallation, right-click anywhere on the dock and select “Exit,” then go to Windows’s regular “Apps & Features” to finish the uninstallation. There will be a few “warnings” that must be ignored.
8. Circle Dock
Circle Dock doesn’t look like a normal Mac dock, but you’re using Windows, so why should it? As the name implies, Circle Dock is a circular dock. It hasn’t been updated officially for a while, and in fact, the main site lists 2008 as the last version, while SourceForge has a 2016 version that works better with 64-bit systems. All versions are free.
You can easily hide the dock when not using it. Add unlimited items using a sub-level organization system. Simply drag and drop icons onto it. Create shortcuts on your desktop, then drag those onto the dock for some items to work correctly. Use your arrow keys to easily navigate between items.
ObjectDock is the only option on this list without a free version; it has a 30-day free trial instead. However, it’s the closest competitor to Nexus and offers a variety of customization options. You can even create separate docklets to add to your main dock for better organization.
One thing that really sets it apart is the ability to hide your taskbar, effectively replacing your taskbar with ObjectDock. Plus, any running programs/apps appear in the dock. If you’re searching for a dock to replace the Windows taskbar, the minimal $4.99 is definitely worth it. While the website states it’s compatible with Windows 7/Vista/8, it works well on Windows 10 with no problems. It’s a less-expensive alternative to Nexus if you’re searching for a premium feature set.
RocketDock by Punk Labs has a retro feel to it, as it helps you travel back in time to the Windows NT operating system age. Remember the Windows 2000 dock, where all your favorite applications used to just hang? RocketDock reminds you of that. It is a simple and safe application that you can install on Windows 11 devices. It feels somewhat like Appetizer, the legacy open-source software.
Unlike other fancy app docks in our list, RocketDock’s plus point is its simplicity. Each application or program you move out of the dock makes a “whoosh” sound with gases igniting and fading away. Likewise, you can drag the apps you need right into the dock, and they will imitate a faux shuttle launch.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to make Windows taskbar look like the Mac dock?
To have a Mac dock-like aesthetic in place of your Windows taskbar, you can use TaskbarX, an external freeware you can get from Microsoft Store and GitHub.
Why is my taskbar covering the bottom of my screen?
The Windows taskbar is always at the bottom by default, and you need to hide it to keep it invisible, especially if an external app dock has been installed. It can be hidden from view from “Taskbar Settings” by right-clicking on the Taskbar and checking the box for “Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode” under “Taskbar behavior.”
This workaround has to be temporary when you’re scrolling in the taskbar area, as it’s not safe to replace your Windows taskbar with an app dock permanently.
How do I fix my non-working Windows Start menu?
If you are switching to an app dock because the Start menu search is not working, we have some solutions for you. Try disabling the Windows Explorer process in Task Manager, reinstalling the Start menu in PowerShell and moving Swapfile.sys.
Image credit: Sfio Cracho via Adobe Stock All screenshots by Sayak Boral
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