Question Mark(s) in Dock after Workflow

Good Morning!

After running my workflow that erases & installs macOS Catalina 10.15.7 and various packages, upon login to any user… iWork apps show up in the dock as question marks. I don’t have them set to install through our MDM or via any other method, so I have no idea why they are showing up.

If I boot from a regular macOS Catalina recovery drive, erase & install the OS manually and then login, those question marks are not there.

That is strange. I wonder if it has anything to do with the user template. Try creating a new user and logging in as that user and see if the dock is the same.


These 3 question marks are for Numbers, Pages, and Keynote which exist in the default Dock template, but will not be included in the default Dock under normal circumstances when the apps are not pre-installed. “Under normal circumstances” means when macOS/Dock app configures the Dock automatically when a does not exist yet. I think this is because they can come pre-installed on a brand new Mac from the factory, but will not be pre-installed when you do a wipe and clean install (as MDS does).

I do not believe this would be affected by manipulating the User Template specifically since the default dock plist exists within the Dock app bundle rather than the Library files within the User Template. On macOS 10.15 and newer the default Dock plist is located at /System/Library/CoreServices/ and on 10.14 and older it’s at /System/Library/CoreServices/

My first guess would be that you have some script that was attempting to modify the Dock contents before the dock plist was actually created (since it is not created when the home folder has been made from the standard User Template). So, I’m guessing an incomplete dock plist was then created by one of your scripts which the Dock app detected was not properly setup and replaced it with the default Dock plist (there is a special version key that the Dock app checks for to determine if the Dock plist is valid). When the Dock plist is replaced in this way, it seems to not get processed in the same way as it is on a first login when the Dock plist does not exist yet. This results in the entire unprocessed default Dock plist being used, which includes these placeholders for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

You two would probably know better how/why this might be happening in this case…

@sirsir Do you have custom scripts that edit the Dock contents for a specific user or within the User Template folders before first login?

@tperfitt Does MDS do any Dock plist manipulation in the User Template or per user by default? I didn’t think it did.

After binding to AD and logging in as a user, the question marks are in the same spot.

The only script I’m utilizing is one to change the TimeZone to EST.

sudo systemsetup -settimezone “America/Detroit”

Packages I’m running are: Google Chrome, Office Serializer, Office Updater, Word/Excel/Powerpoint.

I band-aided the issue with our MDM for now, but still curious as to whats causing it.

I’m not really familiar with the behavior of those app installers, but a wild guess might be that Office or something is trying to add those apps to the dock which could cause this problem if done before first login. But not sure about that.

One way to debug would be to remove things one by one and do new installs with each removal and see when the dock becomes normal.

Alternatively could set up a script to be the final task after all installations to log the contents of the dock before login to see if there are any clues there.

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