Editor’s note: The following review is part of Macworld’s GemFest 2013. Every day (except Sunday) from mid-July until late September, the Macworld staff will use the Mac Gems blog to briefly cover a standout free or low-cost program. You can view a list of this year’s apps, updated daily, on our handy GemFest page, and you can visit the Mac Gems homepage for past Mac Gems reviews.
OS X’s Launchpad was derided when it first appeared in OS X Lion. It was part of the then-new iOS-ification of OS X: It closely mimicked the iOS homescreen full of icons, through which you’d scroll sideways to find and launch the apps you wanted. Back then, our own Dan Frakes called it, “Lion’s most misguided adoption of an iOS feature.”
Time has mellowed that initial disdain. In the intervening years, I’ve seen the occasional shy admission from a variety of Mac users that they’ve come to rely on Launchpad as at least one way they open their apps. If you don’t use a keyboard-based launcher, if you prefer to keep your hand on the mouse or trackpad, Launchpad can actually be a handy way to open your apps—particularly if you’ve grown accustomed to the iOS way of doing things.
But Launchpad still has one big flaw: It doesn’t have any good built-in tools for arranging those app icons the way you want them. You have to manually drag icons from one screen to another (or onto one another to create groups).
To remedy that, there’ve been a couple of utilities that help you manage your Launchpad screens. The latest is Launchpad Manager 1.3.2, and it’s a nice one. If you use Launchpad, you should definitely check it out.
Launchpad Manager comes in two forms: a free app and a Pro edition that costs $8. The free one is OK, but the paid version is (as you’d expect) far more useful.
For free, you get the ability to cut and paste apps from one screen to another; to move selected apps from one page to another with a couple of clicks; to select all icons on a page with one click; and to remove selected icons altogether.
But the Pro version adds the really good stuff. For starters, it lets you sort app icons alphabetically; best of all, you can do so page by page. (So, for example, you could opt to sort all of the Apple apps that by default appear together on the first Launchpad page, then sort all the other third-party apps on the pages that follow, without mixing the two groups together.)
Upgrading also enables you to reload previously saved layouts, so you can have different icon arrangements for different contexts—one for work and another for home, say. It gives you buttons for quickly grouping and ungrouping collections of apps (putting all those Adobe CS icons in a single folder, for example). And it lets you restore apps that you’d removed from Launchpad at some point in the past.
You can still arrange icons on a given screen via drag-and-drop within Launchpad Manager. But unlike Launchpad itself, the utility doesn’t let you drag apps from one screen to the next; you have to use the Move command instead. It doesn’t let you create groups by drag-and-drop, either.
But beyond those two small quibbles, this is a really useful app. If you don’t use Launchpad at all, you obviously don’t need it. But if you do use Launchpad—and, really, there’s no shame in that—Launchpad Manager makes that interface way more useful.