A bug fix for arranging apps on iTunes

We love the new ability to arrange iPhone apps on iTunes 9, but there is a bug that makes it less than perfect.

David Martin
David Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant.
David Martin
4 min read

Prior to the release of iTunes 9 (Windows | Mac), arranging pages apps directly on your iPhone or iPod Touch was tedious and unpleasant. So when Apple touted app arranging as a new in iTunes feature this week we got very excited. We've spent the last three days with iTunes 9 and the new app arranging feature. While we're satisfied with it there is one bug that made it less than perfect. Luckily, we have a workaround.

Arranging app icons in iTunes 9 David Martin

Arranging app icons
After connecting your device to a computer and launching iTunes 9, just go to the Applications tab as shown below. Once there, you can drag apps between thumbnails that represent the 11 home screens. Exciting, right? Well not so fast, since the process still is a bit painful if an app isn't currently assigned to one of the 176 spaces on the home screens (four spaces are reserved for the Dock). We have the same problem when arranging (or deleting) app icons on the iPod or iTouch.

If an app icon doesn't exist in a space, you won't be able to manage it until you figure out a secret. The check mark on the app on the left side of the window tells you that it's currently synced to your device. You can't manipulate "checked" apps unless they are sitting on a home screen. If the app is not on one of the 11 home screens you have to do the following.

App checked for syncing and cannot be arranged due to iTunes 9 bug David Martin

  • Uncheck the app so that it won't sync with your phone.
  • Place the app on one of the 11 home screens.
  • Re-check the app so it will sync again.

Unchecked app can be arranged David Martin

If you forget to recheck it, you will delete the app from your device the next time you sync it with iTunes. Indeed, it's not a very intuitive process; I only stumbled on it accidentally. You'll also need to remember it for the tasks below.

Arranging multiple apps or app grouping
If you need to move more than one app at a time between home screens then you should use the following steps. This is handy, for example, if you want to move all your game apps to one page. If they don't fit onto that page, they will overflow to the next one automatically.

  • Select multiple app icons using the Command-Click or Ctrl-Click depending on whether you are using Mac OS X or Windows.
  • Drag the icons to the home screen you want to move them onto.
  • Release the mouse button.

Some of my apps after arranging David Martin

Moving apps between home screens
This is an easy process after you know the workaround for the bug mentioned above.
  • Grab the app icon that you want to arrange and drag it to the home screen thumbnails. By holding the app at the top or bottom of the home screen list, you can scroll through your home screen pages.
  • Move the app to your desired home screen and the page will appear in the center of the photo above.
  • Drag the app icon onto the larger image of that home screen as shown above and drop the icon in a location.
Reorder home screens
You can drag home pages around in the thumbnail column to reorder them by performing these steps.

  • Find the home page that you'd like rearrange and select its thumbnail.
  • Drag the selected home page thumbnail to its new position and release it.
App arrangement tips

If you're lucky enough to have empty home screens, use them wisely as a place for temporary app storage. This can be useful during a massive rearrangement or, for example, when starting a screen containing only games or photo apps.

Home screen thumbnails David Martin

Arrange the very first home screen carefully since it's only a Home key press away from any where on the iPhone or iPod. Stock it with the apps you use the most.

Use the dock on the very first home page for the four apps that you use most often. These docked apps will appear on every page giving you the fastest access to those most used apps. It's not limited to the default apps--you can replace those if needed, but remember that these default apps cannot be deleted.

Hopefully, this bug will be fixed in a future release of iTunes so that you can move apps regardless of whether or not the check mark to sync them is on or off. Developers are now adding tags to their apps, which can make it easier to find them via Spotlight. It's unfortunate that Apple didn't include a way to sort apps on iTunes using these tags.

This is a great first attempt at making managing apps easier, and we that hope Apple will spend time improving on it. For some, however, Apple's new solution falls short in usability when compared to the solution available on a jailbroken iPhone or the simple proof of concept for app sorting that we covered previously.

What do you think about Apple's first attempt at app sorting in iTunes? Tell us about it in the comments.