How to organise and clean up Launchpad on the Apple Mac

Customise Launcher on the Apple Mac by adding apps, rearranging them, deleting them. How to reset Launcher and change the rows and columns.

Do you use Launchpad on the Apple Mac? If the answer is No or Rarely, perhaps you just haven’t set it up right. It is a useful tool and a quick way to access the applications you need.

At first sight Launchpad might seem to be unnecessary. After all, the Dock enables you to start your favourite applications. With a few simple changes though, it can be made easier to use and provide faster access to your apps.

Launchpad was introduced a long time ago, with OS X Lion in fact, but it is still in macOS today. It it is clearly a feature that has been transferred from iOS and it is Apple’s attempt to provide easy access to the apps installed on the Mac in a similar way to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. One familiar interface across all platforms.

Microsoft tried this with Windows 8, but was far less successfull. In fact, it was a bit of a disaster. With Launchpad on the Apple mac though, you are not forced to use the iOS-like interface and it can be completely ignored if you choose to. It does not replace standard methods of interacting with the computer that we are used to and you can use whichever method suits you best.

If you don’t use Launchpad though, here are some tips that might change your mind.

Pinch to launch Launchpad

There are several ways to start Launchpad and there is an icon in the Dock that you can simply click. If you use a MacBook with a small screen you might want to Ctrl+click the Launchpad Dock icon and select Remove From Dock because there are better ways to start it and it leaves more space for other icons.

A handy alternative method of starting Launchpad is to pinch on the trackpad with a thumb and three fingers. To dismiss Launchpad, spread your thumb and three fingers. New MacBooks have big trackpads, so this is easy, but old models had smaller ones, so it could be a bit awkward if you have big hands.

If you are not comfortable with using the trackpad gesture, there is a hotkey on the keyboard - press F4 to start Launchpad.

If you don’t have a keyboard shortcut to start Launchpad, if the F4 key is not working, or if you simply want to change it, go to System Preferences, Keyboard, Shortcuts. Select Launchpad and Dock on the left, tick Show Launchpad, then click on the right and press the keys you want to use. Make sure the key combo is not already used by something else.

Launchpad on OS X

Rearrange apps in Launchpad

One of the best ways to make Launchpad more useful is to rearrange the apps. Like iOS, you can click, hold, then drag an icon to move it to a new position. The other icons scoot around to make space for it. Dragging an icon to the edge of the screen on the right or the left enables you to move it to a new screen, just like on an iPhone or iPad.

You have apps in the Dock at the bottom of the screen, so there is no need to have the exact same apps on the first screen of Launchpad, the one displayed by default. Drag all the Launchpad apps that are also in the Dock to screen two or three.

For example, apps like Calendar, Notes, Reminders are already in the Dock, so drag them to Launchpad screen 2 or 3 and make space on Launchpad screen 1 for apps that are not in the Dock. They are then quicker to access.

The easiest apps to find are those in the top left corner of the screen, so drag your most used apps to this position.

Configure Launchpad on OS X

The Dock is the best place for your most used apps and Launchpad screen 1 is for your second most used apps.

Organise Launchpad using folders

You might want to organise apps by creating folders. On the one hand this makes them slightly harder to get to and you have to click a folder and then click an app, but on the other hand, you might find it easier to open a folder on screen 1 than to hunt across several screens for an app.

You could create an Office app for work apps, a Games folder for your games, a Photography folder for photo editing apps, an Internet folder with browsers, instant messaging, online drives, and so on. It is your choice and the folders will depend on what apps you have.

Creating folders is exactly the same as with an iPad or iPhone and you click and drag one app icon and drop it on another. The folder may be named automatically, but if it is not what you want, it can be clicked and changed.

Create folders in Launchpad on the Mac

A folders could be a useful way to hide those apps that are already in the Dock, like Safari, Mail, iTunes and so on. It would free up space on Launchpad screen 1.

Delete apps in Launchpad

In theory, apps can be deleted from launchpad and the method is like iOS. Click and hold until the apps start wobbling and a cross appears in the corner. Click it to delete it. Not all apps can be deleted this way and some do not have the cross icon.

There is always a reason for this and system apps for example, cannot be deleted. Apps you install yourself can be.

Delete apps in Launchpad on the Mac

Launchpad can get in a muddle and show icons for apps that have been deleted and it can become out of sync with what is actually in the Applications folder on the disk drive.

Look at Cobook in the screen shot above. It has a faint question mark over the icon (it is hard to see - stare at it till you see it!). The app was deleted from the Applications folder, but the icon remains in Launchpad. These rogue icons like this should be deleted because they have no use.

I do not advise deleting apps this way and some apps have special uninstallers. See How to uninstall Mac software properly and remove all traces. If no uninstaller is provided, use AppCleaner. see How do you uninstall apps on the Mac? Here's the right way.

Change the Launchpad layout

I have looked at how to change the number of icons displayed on the Launchpad screen before, so read that article. Briefly, open Terminal and type:

defaults write springboard-rows -int N

defaults write springboard-columns -int N

Replace the N at the end to set the number of rows and columns of icons to display, such as 3, 5, 6, whatever.

How do you reset Launchpad?

  1. Open Terminal in the Utilities folder
  2. Type: defaults write ResetLaunchPad -bool TRUE
  3. Type: killall Dock

An alternative method that you should try if that does not work:

  1. Click the Go menu in Finder
  2. Hold down option and click Library
  3. Go to Application Support > Dock
  4. Delete all files with a .db extension
  5. Restart the Mac



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