How to Change Launchpad Icon Grid Layout in Mac OS X

Mar 9, 2016 - 17 Comments

Change the Launchpad grid icon count in Mac OS X

Launchpad is the quick application launcher available from the Mac OS X Dock and a keystroke that looks quite a bit like the Homescreen of iOS. By default, the Launchpad app grid usually displays icons in 7 rows and 5 columns of apps, but with a little adjustment from the command line of OS X you can switch and customize the Launchpad icon grid to any number of apps you’d like to see on the Mac.

This uses the command line and defaults strings to customize the Launchpad grid layout, if you’re not comfortable with Terminal you’re probably better off leaving this alone and enjoying the default Launchpad app icon grid. We’ll combine the commands into a single syntax string for ease of use first, but you can break them apart as we show you a bit further below.

How to Adjust the Icon Grid Count of Launchpad in Mac OS X

  1. Open the Terminal found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command syntax, replacing the X numbers for the appropriate columns and grid icon counts
  2. defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-columns -int X;defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-rows -int X;defaults write com.apple.dock ResetLaunchPad -bool TRUE;killall Dock

    For example, to set the Launchpad grid to 3×5 you’d use the following syntax:
    defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-columns -int 5;defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-rows -int 3;defaults write com.apple.dock ResetLaunchPad -bool TRUE;killall Dock

  3. Hit Return and wait for the Dock and Launchpad to refresh
  4. Open Launchpad as usual to see the layout change

The settings change is immediate after the Dock refreshes:

Change the Launchpad grid icon count in Mac OS X

You can also cram many icons onto screen with this if desired:

Change Launchpad icon count in Mac OS X

If you want to return to the default setting, just change the column and row counts back to what yours was originally. The default on my MacBook Pro Retina display is a 5 x 7 grid, but yours may be different depending on screen size and screen resolution.

defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-columns -int 7;defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-rows -int 5;defaults write com.apple.dock ResetLaunchPad -bool TRUE;killall Dock

Customize Launchpad grid icon layout

The commands for customizing the Launchpad layout can also be split apart if desired like so:

Set the Launchpad Column Icon Count

defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-columns -int 3

Set the Launchpad Row App Icon Count

defaults write com.apple.dock springboard-rows -int 4

Reset Launchpad

defaults write com.apple.dock ResetLaunchPad -bool TRUE;

Relaunch the Dock with killall

killall Dock

You can also choose to just set a custom row or just a custom column count, but you must reset and refresh the Launchpad, and finally killall Dock to relaunch the Dock in Mac OS X and have the changes to take effect regardless of how you customize it.

Thanks to LifeHacker for the neat find.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Command Line, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

17 Comments

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  1. Ted says:

    This is a great tip! Thank you!

    I just don’t get it why Apple doesn’t create some sort of control panel (a real one) where many of these hidden settings could be simply customized. I am aware of apps like Onyx and such, but I should not need to install a 3rd party app just to customize something that’s already built-in.

    • Cotton is cozy says:

      I agree, there are so many settings and toggles that are under the hood only accessible by defaults commands, it would be nice if Apple simply allowed an “Advanced” setting area in System Preferences with all of this stuff. Make it locked by default and under admin access, but it’s a lot of digging to uncover.

  2. Craig says:

    I find launchpad pointless.
    In fact for the most part I don’t use the icons or the program folders at all.

    On the Mac I just press apple key + space bar.
    They are right next to each other and the I type the first few letters of the application I want to use and press enter.
    Boom!
    Application runs!
    Sometimes I want a file but my folder hierarchy is 100 folders deep (like my wife’s is).
    Press apple +space type as many letters of the document name I’m looking for. Watch the list of matching file names shrink. You can even open up an explorer window with all of the listed files regardless of the folder they are in.

    I don’t have to slog through tons of screens and folders as I try to remember where I hid the icon for a program.

    On my iOS devices it is just as easy. Go to your main icon page (or any icon page) and swipe down. Same search bar pops up as on the Mac.

    Much faster than trying to scroll through pages of icons.

    • San says:

      Launchpad is intended for people coming to Mac from iPhone or iPad, that’s why it looks that way.

      Overall I do not like it, I find Launchpad to be a rubbish part of the iOS-ification of Mac OS X, which is a mistake given that iOS is not for serious work and Mac OS has long been a real platform for producing real work. Don’t break the Mac by dumbing it down. The Mac is great. The iPhone is great too. Keep them separate, Apple!

      • John says:

        Actually, I’m a Mac user since OS7.5 and use Launchpad daily. Mind you I use something called Finder Pop that gives me a customizable menu that gets me to Launchpad and all my apps in seconds…

        • Michael D says:

          And this old-school user is still a happy user of MaxMenus (not in development for quite some time). It’s still working in El Capitan and has been my go-to shortcut method for years. Amazingly configurable and helpful when I still need to see a folder/folder contents in a flash.

          Spotlight still tends to come up with far too much unwanted stuff in my case, though I do welcome its application launcher abilities (formerly a niche 3rd party application category). I still tend to recognize things I need the fastest by name (text), not an icon, especially when there are similar apps in my arsenal..

  3. Ed says:

    Is there a way to arrange the icons alphabetically using terminal? Kinda a hassle to have to manually move icons about. Thanks for this great tip btw!

  4. Pippo says:

    Launchpad it the most useless thing that you can find on a Mac after the antivirus :D

  5. Aaron says:

    This ebook has about 400 more OS X tweaks: CUSTOMIZING OS X – Yosemite Edition: Fantastic Tricks, Tweaks, Hacks, Secret Commands, & Hidden Features to Customize Your OS X User Experience.

    • Jonathan says:

      There’s a book for El Capitan too – Customizing OS X – El Capitan Edition: Fantastic Tricks, Tweaks, Hacks, Secret Commands, & Hidden Features to Customize Your OS X User Experience

  6. leon says:

    Thanks for this tip. Is this ‘trick’ possible with favorite sides in Safari as well. I’d love to get more and smaller icons.

  7. ResetLaunchPad says:

    the command is not the requirement, right?

  8. Georg says:

    grmbl, you sure should have mentioned that all created app groups will be destroyed. Now i have to spend hours to recreate my groups. Not good.

  9. Gary says:

    Why??? Such a awfull layout like microsoft!!!

  10. Luke says:

    I like this but half of my icons is stranded on the second page. There is plenty of room on the first page but they don’t seem to move by themselves and I can’t see a way to get them to change pages. Any ideas?

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