My Applications folder is getting pretty full and I'm starting to lose track of applications. I want to organize them in groups, but I've read that some applications don't properly handle being put inside a folder.

1) What is the truth to this statement? Is there a list of applications with known problems? Is this a thing of the past? Does FileVault have anything to do with it? (I have FileVault turned on)

2) What alternatives do I have? How do you group your applications?

I'm currently considering making some other folder in my home directory (maybe "Shortcuts"), with subfolders for groups, and inside of those subfolders making symlinks to applications in the /Applications directory. Then I would drag my Applications folder off my dock and replace it with the Shortcuts folder. Do you see anything wrong with that?

Is there any mechanism built into Snow Leopard for grouping applications?

7 Answers 7


A little off-topic, but I hardly ever launch Applications from the Finder.

They are either in the Dock, or you can get to them with Spotlight (or your favorite alternative app launcher).

  • +1 on Spotlight. Other than those applications I keep in the dock (and even them most of the time), I launch everything by a quick command-space to get to spotlight, then type the start of the name, and hit enter.
    – jmlumpkin
    Dec 15, 2010 at 13:40
  • I like this paradigm shift. I've gotten used to opening the "Applications" folder on my dock to run something -- it was there by default. But just now, I've dragged it off my dock and I will be making myself do this. I already have some frequently-used apps on the dock, but probably not enough; and I have used spotlight occasionally but definitely not enough.
    – Ricket
    Dec 16, 2010 at 4:32

1) The pre-installed Apple applications generally won't get updated by Software Update if they are moved. The Developer applications won't work properly if moved. I honestly haven't tried complex installs like Photoshop to see if they can be moved. But most applications that you download from a website as a zip or dmg can be installed where ever you like -- I tend to create an "Applications" folder in my home folder for those applications

2) I think your suggestion is the recommended one. Note that the typical way to create what Mac OS X calls an "alias" (kind of like a windows shortcut, more like a unix soft link) is to option+command drag the icon to the destination. You could also have sub-folders in your shortcut folder -- "Games," "Productivity," "Communications."

Once the Mac OS X App Store gets started, I think there will be more options for organizing app store apps.

  • 2
    +1 for ~/Applications. Note that even if you have other user accounts, with the default permissions they can also still launch applications from there (no need to have three copies of Firefox for three user accounts).
    – Thilo
    Dec 15, 2010 at 5:00
  • 1
    The Adobe Creative Suite stuff won't put up with being moved, insisting at every launch that it repair the problem. A couple of Adobe apps won't even run if moved. Dec 15, 2010 at 7:03

Very few 3rd party apps need to be in /Applications. You can usually tell as they don't look very Mac-ish, or are low-level requiring an installer and a reboot. I haven't seen any drag-and-drop apps that need to be there.

I put everything I install in ~/local/Applications, and I have had zero problems.

If you want further classification/categorization, I think your suggestion of Aliases is the way to go. The advantage here is you can have the app appear in multiple places, for example, VLC could be filed under both an "Audio" and a "Video" folder.

  • I simply put things in ~/Applications. Is there a specific reason you have the ~/local interjection? May 31, 2011 at 22:53
  • *nix heritage..
    – user588
    Jun 1, 2011 at 3:47
  • IMHO, ~/ implies local May 27, 2014 at 16:12

If you take your recommended route (basically making aliases to the apps and grouping them by folder), you could then add these folders to your dock, and basically have a folder for each group. Then clicking on one (say you have a group for network stuff like browsers and FTP clients), click on that - which would thing bring up the list for you to click the icon.


My answer is as simple as the keystrokes I just used to look something up. (Note: Requires an application launcher such as the built-in Spotlight, or the free Alfred.app)

Cmd + Space, terenter ↩

My terminal is now open and I can proceed to run the commands I wanted to. Two other favorites are goo / chr for my browser. But that's pretty much always open anyways. And if it isn't, I rarely invoke it directly, more often just by clicking a link.

(Note: for Alfred, the default keystroke is Ctrl+Space instead of Cmd+Space)

  • Thanks for the suggestion, and I do use Alfred, but this in no way addresses the question of grouping applications in the dock...
    – Ricket
    Jun 1, 2011 at 3:23
  • True, but the same is true of virtually every other answer here.
    – David
    Jun 1, 2011 at 12:14
  • Good point, I didn't review the other answers but still three of them were on-topic... Anyway sorry if I came off really 'nazi' and thanks for pointing out Alfred (which, your answer actually also applies to Spotlight or any app launcher - but Alfred is great)
    – Ricket
    Jun 1, 2011 at 16:06

I use something called "Overflow" (15$) that expands the capacity of the dock.


Folders for Applications is coming with Mac OS X Lion. Folders won't be viewed in the Finder, but via Launchpad you can have apps in folders.

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