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Mac OS X Lion: Launchpad Tips and Secrets

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion includes a new feature called Launchpad, an easy way to find and open your apps. In this tutorial, we'll cover some tips and tricks in working with this new technology.

Launching and Navigation

First, to open Launchpad, click its icon in the Dock or, on Macs that came with Lion pre-installed, click the dedicated Launchpad key. If you don't have one of the most recent Macs but would still like to have your own dedicated shortcut key, follow these steps:

Open your System Preferences, select the Keyboard preference pane, then click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. Click on Launchpad & Dock, then double-click on the empty space next to Show Launchpad, on the right. Now type in the keyboard shortcut you'd like to use. If you pick one that's already in use, you'll see an alert.

An alert if shortcut is already in use

F8, one of the function keys along the top of the keyboard, is a good choice if you haven't already mapped it to something else:

Choose F8 which is normally not assigned to any other function

Launchpad is based on the app screens on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. Therefore, and especially if you've used those devices before, many of Launchpad's navigation and organization routines will seem pretty familiar. For example: to move between Launchpad pages, swipe left or right on your trackpad with two fingers, or use the left and right arrow keys. You can also click and hold in an empty area of the current Launchpad page and drag left or right.


To move an app's icon from one page to another, drag the icon to the edge of the current page and hold it there to "scoot" it over to the next page. Drag to the left to move it to the previous page, drag to the right to move it to the next page.

Now, you've probably noticed that every app on your computer is displayed in Launchpad, including droplets, uninstallers, Help apps, and every random thing you have downloaded, used once, and forgot to throw away. This behavior may change later but for now, it's kind of a pain. One way to clean this up a bit is to organize those apps into folders. 

To create folders within Launchpad drag one application icon onto another (again, just like in iOS). At that point, the Launchpad screen will fade and split to show you the folder's contents. To change the folder's default name, click on the name at the top of the folder screen and type in a new one:

renaming a folder

To add more items to the folder, just drag more app icons onto the folder.

Note: You can also delete apps from Launchpad by clicking and holding on an app's icon until they all start wiggling, then clicking the "X" in the upper left of the icon. However, this only works with apps that have been downloaded and installed from the Mac App Store, and doing so will completely uninstall the app from your system, not just remove it from Launchpad. As such, it's not a great solution to the problem.


Now, there is a way to clear out all the apps in Launchpad and show just the ones you want, but it involves using the Terminal and altering the Launchpad database, which can be a little tricky (and dangerous) for some users. A much simpler and safer way is the donation-ware Preference Pane called Launchpad-Control, from the happy programmers at Chaosspace in Germany, which you can download here.

Once you've downloaded it, just drag the Launchpad-Control.prefPane file into the PreferencePanes folder in your system Library folder (the one at the root level of your hard drive, alongside Applications and Users). Then, open your System Preferences and click the Launchpad preference pane at the bottom of the System Preferences window.

There you can selectively hide or show any of the apps that Launchpad wants to display, or even entire pages, just by checking or unchecking the checkboxes in the list and clicking "Apply".

Show or hide Apps in Launchpad!

Launchpad-Control is a great little system add-on and well worthy of your support if you decide to use it.

And there you go: a few simple tips to help you get around Launchpad and make working with it a little easier. To learn more about Mac OS X Lion check out this tutorial-video.

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


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