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How to refresh the Launchpad in OS X

If you find programs are missing from Apple's Launchpad, there are a couple of ways to restore them.

One of the newer features in OS X is the Launchpad interface, which offers an iOS-like approach to application management in which programs are organized in a full-screen grid. While this interface should show the applications you have installed, sometimes you may find it missing a few that you need.

Unfortunately Apple does not offer any options for configuring Launchpad to add programs. If you hold the Option key when Launchpad is open, then, as with iOS, the programs will wiggle and allow you to collect them into folders or delete those you purchased from the Mac App Store; however, there is no way to simply remove a program from this interface while keeping it on your system, or add one that is on your system but not shown.

Launchpad databases in the user Library
Remove the contents of the Dock folder and then log out and back in to rebuild the Launchpad databases. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

Therefore, to add programs missing from Launchpad, your options are to try either adjusting the location of the program itself, or forcing Launchpad to rebuild its database.

  1. Use default locations for applications
    The Launchpad will only show programs that are in the default /Applications folders in OS X, meaning the folder at the root of the hard drive and the optional one that can be placed in your user account. If a program resides outside of these folders then it will not be shown in Launchpad, so be sure to check where the program is on your system.

    Alternatively, if the program is in an Applications folder then you may be able to get Launchpad to detect it by moving it out of the folder, logging out and back in to restart Launchpad, and then moving the program back to the Applications folder.
  2. Rebuild the Launchpad database
    The Launchpad is actually a component of the OS X Dock, which maintains a couple of databases that determine what applications are to be shown in Launchpad. If these become corrupt then it may not add new applications to Launchpad, or those that were part of Launchpad may not open when clicked or may simply be missing.

    To overcome such problems, you can force the Dock to rebuild the Launchpad databases by removing them manually. The databases are in your user library, which you can get to by holding the Option key and choosing Library from the Go menu in the Finder. In here, open the Application Support > Dock folder and remove the files in there (they should have a long string of alphanumeric characters as names). After doing so, log out and log back in to your account, which will make the Dock and Launchpad reset and scan the Applications folders to repopulate Launchpad.

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