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Mac OS X Lion and Launchpad

Mac OS X Lion introduces Launchpad, an app launcher that borrows heavily from iOS. With the flick of a gesture, you can open Launchpad and have access to your applications. Once Launchpad is running, you can sort, organize and delete your apps. Here's what to expect from Lauchpad.

Opening Launchpad

To use Launchpad, you must, well, launch it. Fortunately, Apple provides several methods. The easiest is a with a Multi-Touch gesture. Note that you'll need a trackpad for this, either one built into your laptop or Apple's Magic Trackpad. Unfortunately, the Magic Mouse does not offer a gesture to launch Launchpad.

To open Launchpad with a gesture, place three fingers and a thumb on the trackpad, slightly spread apart. Gather them all together, as if you're picking up something small, like a paper clip. As you do, Launchpad will open.

Those without a Multi-Touch surface can either click the Launchpad icon (Lion adds it to the dock) or assign it to hot corner via the Screen Saver preference pane. Then you can move your cursor into that corner to open Launchpad.

Navigating Launchpad

Launchpad displays your apps on pages, much as iOS does. You can move from page to page with a gesture, with a mouse or with your keyboard. Here's how. Those with a tracked (built-in or Magic Trackpad) can swipe with two fingers. If you've got a mouse with a scroll wheel, move the wheel left or right. Finally, the arrow keys on your keyboard also work.

Organizing, Launching and Adding Apps

Anyone with an iOS device will find this familiar. Laucnhpad lets or re-arrange your apps and sort them into folders. To organize things, simply click and hold on an icon, drag it to its new location and drop it in place. You'll see the surrounding icons scoot out of the way, just like iOS apps. Creating folders also works as it does on the iPhone, etc. Grab an icon and drop it onto another. A folder is created right away. You can accept the suggested name or use your own by double-clicking the title Lion provides and typing over it. When you're through, click anywhere outside the folder. Finally, folders can be re-ordered with a simple drag and drop.

There are two ways to add an application to Launchpad. The first is to make a purchase from the Mac App Store. That app will "jump" out of the store's window and open Launchpad. It's icon will display a progress bar as the app loads an is installed (again, much like iOS). Apps not purchased from the App Sore are added to Launchpad when placed in your Applications folder.

To launch an application, simply give it a click. You'll exit Launchpad for the desktop as the app launches.

Deleting Apps

You can delete apps via "Jiggle Mode," another feature borrowed from iOS. Click and hold on an icon to get them shaking. You'll see the familiar "X" appear in the upper left-hand corner of apps available for deletion. Click it and a confirmation dialog box appears. Click "Delete" and poof! The app is gone.

You'll notice I said "available for deletion." Not all apps can be deleted via Launchpad jiggle mode. For example, apps that ship with Lion (like Photo Booth) and those not purchased from the Mac App Store.

What Launchpad Can't Do

Lauchpad is a capable app launcher, but there are several things it can't do. For example, you can't add a folder to Launchpad. Also, documents and aliases can't be added. Those interested in scripting, file manipulation, etc. ought to consider Alfred, LaunchBar etc. as a supplement to Launchpad.

Thoughts

I can tell you right now that there will be a large, vocal group of nerds who merrily bash Launchpad. They'll call it underpowered eye-candy, lacking in more advanced features. But really, that's not what Launchpad is meant to be. Instead, it offers a convenient way to find an app, launch it and then get back to what you were doing. As with iOS, you can put your most frequently-used apps front and center. No more scrolling through the Applications folder, stuffing your Dock to its gills or lining up aliases on the desktop. Launchpad is all about ease and convenience. In this area, it excels.

Sure, it's for so-called "end users." But we nerds forget that those folks make up the majority of computer users. I suspect that most of them will love Launchpad.

The images used in this article are taken from the upcoming Apress book Taking Your OS X Lion to the Max.

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