The dock is one of the most important pieces of the home screen.

It’s where you put your most-used apps, it’s our quick-launch guide to our device. What we keep on our dock says a lot about who we are and how we use our phones, and most docks are woefully under-utilized. Docks aren’t exactly the sexiest thing to talk about, much less theme, and most themers don’t even mention the dock in their instructions beyond talking about their icon pack.

The apps on your dock are there for a reason, but that’s not to say they’re the only things that have to be there, Docks may look boring, but trust me, they can be functional, fashionable, and downright sneaky.

Dock size and dock pages

Docks can be big, and they can be small. The trick is figuring out which size works or you.

Docks can be big and busy or small and simple.

The biggest and easiest way to bring more functionality to your dock is to add more slots to it. This isn’t always an option with some launchers, but if your launcher supports more than 5 icons in the dock, it’s worthwhile to consider adding another item or two. Or more, some launchers like Action Launcher support up to 12 icons in their docks.

Dock pages aren't for everyone, but they are a handy setting to have.

The more icons in your dock, the smaller each of your icons get, so if you want to add space to your dock without downsizing their look, see if your launcher supports dock pages. Dock pages allow you to double or triple the amount of icons by simply swiping your dock back and forth like the pages of your home screen. Dock pages are not for everyone, but if you’d rather scroll through dock pages than pages in your app drawer, give them a try.

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Folders and gestures

Folders are like having a TARDIS on your home screen, bigger on the inside.

Nine apps, one dock space. Ta da!

Another way to let your dock pull double duty is to stick folders in it. As mentioned last week in our guide to home screen folders, putting folders in your dock can help you achieve a cleaner home screen, or simply make way for more widgets and apps on your home screen. Folders allow us to take one space on our dock and squeeze several apps into it.

There's more than one useful gesture you can make with your finger.

In Action Launcher, Covers let these folders look like a simple app shortcut and act like one in a tap, but you can swipe it open to reveal a folder of useful apps inside. Gesture actions are quite useful in folders, and in some launchers like Nova, the apps in your dock (and on the rest of your home screen) can, too. Gestures allow you to hide another one app within another, or hide specialized shortcuts. You can have the phone on your dock, but a gesture shortcut can let you swipe the phone up to instantly dial your best friend, or your other half.

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Theming docks

As mentioned above, themers sometimes neglect docks, and that’s a shame because theming a dock is simple and can either show off the apps in your dock or hide them from prying eyes and fingers. Docks can look uneven and unruly, especially when mixing apps and folders. The key to a successfully themed dock is symmetry and individuality.

There must always be balance.

Try to keep your dock looking even, whatever even looks like to you. If that means having six icons so there’s three on each side, fine. If you need to keep three icons on each side of your app drawer to keep things even, that works, too. When choosing icons for your dock, pick one icon from your folder to represent the whole folder (if you’re in Action Launcher, this decision is made for you) so that rather than a mix of bigger app icons and smaller icons in the folders we have one consistent line.

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Accent icons can both fill gaps in an icon pack and bring extra style to your dock.

There’s a fine line between a dock being consistent and a dock being boring, which is why I always try to add a little more spark to my app drawers. Something as simple as a custom app drawer icon can pull your dock together with the rest of your theme.

What could be behind icon number 1? Nobody knows but you.

Custom dock icons are another tactic I frequently employ, as they can be subbed for any icon or folder and they can camouflage important apps. You see a line of Disney Parks icons, you laugh and hand back the phone. You see someone’s email app, photo gallery, or banking app, and you might start getting ideas. It may make it harder for a stranger to find their way around, but so long as you remember what apps are on your dock, hiding the actual icon behind a custom icon can also had a small degree of protection.

Whatever form your dock takes, make it your own.

Whether you try to add more pages to your dock or just a custom app drawer icon, we hope these tips can make your dock more vibrant and more versatile. How does your dock look?

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