How to customise the Launchpad screen in OS X on the Mac

Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

Launchpad is that cool feature in OS X that makes it look like iOS. It shows a grid of icons, which makes it really easy to open apps. Learn how to customise the Launchpad screen with Terminal commands.

Use Launchpad

There is a Launchpad icon in the Dock, unless you have removed it, and it looks like a space rocket in a circle. Click it to switch to the Launchpad screen. There is also a keyboard shortcut to start Launchpad and its position might vary depending on your Mac and keyboard. On my MacBook it is the F4 key and the logo on the key is a grid of six squares.

Launchpad displays a grid of icons neatly lined up in rows and columns. They are not organised in any way and it is up to you to put them into whatever order suits you best.

Anyone with an iPad or an iPhone will be immediately at home with Launchpad because it works in almost exactly the same way. Click and drag an app to move it - the others scoot around to make space just like on iOS.

Click and drag an icon to the edge of the screen, like on the iPhone, and the next screen slides into view. You can then drop it wherever you want it. By dragging icons around the screen and from screen to screen, you can organise the apps into the order you want.

Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

It is useful to put your most used apps in the top left corner of the screen because that is the natural place to look.

As with iOS, you can create folders that contain two or more apps and this enables you to put similar apps together, such as all photo and video editing tools, all your games, and so on. Create whatever folders suit the apps you have installed on your Mac.

Just click and drag one app onto another to create a folder. It opens and is automatically given a name by Launchpad. open a folder and click the name at the top of the screen to change it to something else.

Customise Lunchpad

Launchpad shows apps in rows and columns and these are fixed. There is no obvious way to change the size of the icons, the number of rows or the number of columns.

With Finder we can customise the icon view to make icons bigger or smaller, and resize the window to show more rows or columns. Wouldn’t that be useful with Launchpad? With smaller icons you could fit more apps on a screen and so there would be fewer screens. You could fit more of your favourite apps on the first screen.

This is actually possible, but Apple has hidden the settings for some unknown reason. The defaults write command can be used to configure the settings that control the number of rows and columns.

The icon size adjusts automatically to fit the space available, so if you have say three rows of three icons they will be large, but have 10 rows of 10 icons and they will be much smaller because there are more to fit on the screen.

Set the rows

Go to the Utilities folder and open Terminal. At the command prompt enter:

defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-rows -int 10

That number 10 at the end of the line is the number of rows of icons that should be used. Change it to whatever you want, 3, 4, 7, 9, whatever. Don’t go much above this because squeezing more and more rows onto the screen makes the icons smaller and smaller.

Set the columns

The number of columns of icons to use is set by the following command:

defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-columns -int 12

A higher number of columns than rows can be used because screens are wider than they are tall. Screens are letterbox shaped and so you can fit more columns in.

Restart the Dock

To apply the new settings, you can restart the Mac, log out and log back in, or simply stop the Dock and start it again using the following Terminal command:

killall Dock

Terminal in OS X on the Apple Mac

Check your new Launchpad

If you increase the number of rows and columns a lot, as in the example, you will notice that the icons only come half way down the screen. That’s OK, the icons stay on whatever screen they were originally. You need to drag them from other screens to fill the space.

Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

Actual size:
Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

If you decrease the rows and columns, the icons grow in size, but then they won’t all fit on the screen. Extra screens are added to accommodate them.

Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

Actual size:
Launchpad in OS X on the Apple Mac

Try a few different row and column settings and see what works best for you, then drag the icons from screen to screen to arrange them in the order you need.

 

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