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By default, whenever an application is installed in OS X, it gets dropped into the /Applications directory.

At the moment I have 85 items in /Applications, and if I want to open up a particular application from the /Application directory I have to do a rough guess as to where it is located in the Finder's list and then perform a manual linear search until I find what I want. It is even worse when I can't quite remember the name of the application, so I have to do a linear search of the whole directory. And forget about it if all I can remember is the type of functionality I am looking for, but can't remember any part of the name.

In Windows I solve this sort of problem by manually re-arranging the short cuts for the start menu into hierarchical groups based on functionality. This is easy to do in Windows as I am only moving short cuts and not the installation directories of the actual programs. However in OS-X what is displayed in the Applications section of Finder is the installation directory, so there is no easily manipulated layer between the what the Finder displays and the actual directory.

As a concrete example of what I want, currently I have in /Applications:

   /Adobe Photoshop CS3
   .. (30 other entries)
   .. (20 other entries)

But what I would like is

    /Adobe Photoshop CS3

So the big question is how to achieve this. Can I create the sub-directories in /Applications that I want and then just move around the app bundles and directories as I see fit? Or is there a different (Apple) way of achieving what I want?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can move Applications to any folder. There is nothing magic about the Applications folder other than that it's especially easy to get to from the Finder. Feel free to add any subdirectories and put the apps in them.

When I download an app I'm not sure if I want to keep, usually I'll just run it out of the ~/Downloads folder. All personal settings get saved in your home directory, so nothing gets lost when I eventually move the app to the /Applications folder.

As commenters have mentioned, it's probably not a good idea to move Apple apps since it will cause problems with Software Update. In general, though, an app can be run from anywhere your user account can access it.

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I assume that if I move things around that I'll have to rework things that were also previously on the Dock? – Peter M Nov 27 '09 at 19:07
Nope. Dock icons are aliases, so they'll follow the app wherever you put it. See this page for more information about aliases: – Stephen Jennings Nov 27 '09 at 19:14
Of note, moving some applications from /Applications/ to other locations will break Software Update (eg. iLife) – Chealion Nov 28 '09 at 0:05
Creating Aliases and organizing those in a folder or folders in the dock is the way to go. Moving apps out of /Applications into your home folder will prevent other users on the computer from accessing those Applications. You are also asking for duplicate applications when you run Software Update as Chealion mentioned. – ridogi Nov 28 '09 at 1:34
Apple, Microsoft and Adobe apps should be left in /Applications. If you ran an installer and it put the file in /Applications you are better off leaving it there. If it was a DMG that you dragged the app out of you are unlikely to have problems if you move it. – ridogi Nov 29 '09 at 20:31

I have recently started using Mac OS 10.6 along with Win XP. In Windows, applications must reside in their installed directories. However, shortcuts to the executable files can be organized as desired in the Startup menu. I have adopted this strategy in the Mac OS as other posters have suggested; i.e., by making aliases to Applications and organizing these in a "Programs" folder with subfolders. The Programs folder can be placed in the Dock for convenience, and the Applications folder can be removed from the Dock.

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You can manually set a directory where you put aliases to your apps, just like Windows start menu. Put that directory to your Dock, and that's all!

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As others have stated, you can generally move applications around wherever you see fit. In addition, you might want to consider using spotlight to avoid the start menu altogether. I usually do <Command-Space> and start typing the application name, and Spotlight finds it. Hit <Enter> and it launches it.

Obviously, this won't work if you don't remember the application's name, but for your commonly-used applications, it's a real timesaver.

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My favorite strategy is to keep everything under /Applications.

I have tried ~/Applications and /Apps as alternatives for programs that I install, but it becomes confusing as to where an app might be. And also, so many installers install in /Applications. So, I prefer everything in one place, but its up to you.

Next, create a new folder like /Shortcuts or /Programs or /Launchers or whatever you like for keeping shortcuts for each app. Under that directory, create folder for each category like Audio, Video, Office, Games, etc and then create aliases/shortcuts for each app under there.

Next, drag the /Shortcuts into the dock, to get a menu. The point is to have an extensive menu for apps you use less frequently. For frequently used apps, you have spotlight.

An alternative/compliment to this strategy is to use a color label for all the apps in the /Applications. You have to assign a color to each category and also remember them. But the best part is that you can arrange by label. (But I don't use this strategy, because I forget which color is which category. Still its pretty good)

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I would recommend downloading and installing quicksilver.

It is free and you can just type the start of the name of the program and hit return and it will open.

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On Mac OS X, Spotlight provides the same feature out of the box. – mouviciel Nov 27 '09 at 21:28
As per part of my question .. remembering the names of all the applications is one of the issues. – Peter M Nov 27 '09 at 22:12
@mouviciel - I have found spotlight to be a bit slow on my machine, especially compared to quicksilver. @peter M - sorry, I should have said, you can tag things and it remembers what you type verses what you open so you could train it to work for you. – Toby Nov 27 '09 at 22:46

Like the OP, I wanted to have something other than an endless list to find my apps.

However upgrades become problematic. Often an upgraded app ends up back in Applications, while the one originally installed remains wherever you moved it.

I found that a better way was to let OS X put the apps where it wanted, but to create a link tree (MyApps) organized the way I wanted it. Make aliases to each app, then move the aliases into the folder tree where you want them. Optionally you can place apps in more than one place.

Another option is to bring this folder down onto the doc. Right click on it, and set view to "Grid" Next you can modify the icons of each folder to be appropriate to the class of activity.

This allows you to clean up your dock from all but items you constantly use.

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I have always chosen to create subdirectories in the /Applications folder for organising things. There are several options, but if you prepend your category folders with - they will always be sorted at the top (assuming you sort alphabetically):





App Store


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