How To Add An Application to Launchpad

Some of you are probably wondering, like I did, why some of your applications aren't available in Launchpad. You launch Launchpad and wonder, "Why isn't Microsoft Word showing up in Launchpad?" or "Why isn't Quicken in Launchpad?" or "Why isn't my favorite app that I keep on my Desktop not in Launchpad?" There are a variety of reasons that an app may not appear in Launchpad.

Apps Outside the Applications Directory

Launchpad automatically grabs all applications in your root /Applications directory and in your /User/username/Applications directory. If you keep some of your apps in other locations, they won't appear in Launchpad automatically. To add them to Launchpad, simply drag the app onto the Launchpad icon in the Dock. (Thanks to Eric S for the tip.) Or move the application to your main Applications directory or to your user Applications directory. Or make an alias of it and put the alias inside your Applications directory.

 PowerPC Apps

In Lion, PPC apps have a white "NO" symbol across the icon

In Lion, PPC apps have a white "NO" symbol across the icon

In some cases, it's because the application in question is a PowerPC-only app and won't run on your computer under Lion, which did away with Rosetta. Only apps that are Intel or Universal Binary can run under Lion, and Launchpad only shows applications that can actually run on your computer.

You can tell if this is the case by going into your Applications directory, and looking at the applications icon. PPC-only apps will have a white "NO" symbol superimposed atop the icon. In the screenshot at right, you can see that my Retrospect 6.1 has the white "NO" symbol — telling me that I'll have to upgrade Retrospect or find a different backup program, because Retrospect 6.1 won't run under Lion.

The solution? Unfortunately, the best solution is to bite the bullet and update your PPC apps to newer versions. You could keep a boot drive handy with Snow Leopard on it, and boot from that to run a PPC app. Or you could hack Snow Leopard to make it run under Parallels, but let's not even go there.

Once you update your PPC apps to a newer, Intel or Universal Binary version, they'll appear in Launchpad just like any other application.

Yeah, I know, when it's big-ticket applications such as Microsoft Word, having to spend the money for a newer version bites, especially if you were happy with the old version. But if you're bleeding-edge enough that you've already updated to Lion, you should be bleeding-edge enough to keep your applications more current. I've found that it's generally a bad idea to get more than one version behind with any of my important applications. I might skip a version, but then when another version comes out, I go ahead and upgrade. Then when I get a new computer or a new big-cat operating system, the upgrade isn't quite so painful.

Windows Apps

In other cases, it's because the app in question is a Windows app that you use under Parallels or VMWare. I couldn't wait to stop Launchpad from showing me the gazillion Windows apps in my 3 Windows installations under Parallels, but you might want the opposite.

The solution is to go into your virtual machine configuration, Options -> Applications, and check the box to "Share Windows applications with Mac."

Make Windows applications appear in Launchpad

To make Windows applications appear in Launchpad, check the box to "Share Windows applications with Mac"

Drill-Down Apps

You might find that your application is located in a subdirectory inside a subdirectory inside a subdirectory in your Applications directory.  If that's the case, it's probably in some random application "group" that Launchpad helpfully created for you. If the app is in an application group in Launchpad, you don't have to physically move it around in your Applications directory; you can simply go into Launchpad and drag it out of the group.

Update: Or you can simply drag the app onto the Launchpad icon in the Dock, and it will appear in Launchpad. (Thanks to Eric S. for that tip in the comments below.)

Or you can make an alias of the app and put that in the top level of the Applications directory. Then the alias will appear in Launchpad just like any other application.

Did I Miss Any?

Are you aware of any other instances when an application doesn't show up in Launchpad? If you are, let us know by using the comment box below their website.


  1. There is an easier way, just drag the app icon to the Launchpad icon in the Dock, it will add the App to Launchpad

    • Wow! That works! To test it, I dragged one of my apps out of the /Applications directory to the desktop. I checked Launchpad, and the app wasn’t there. Leaving the app on the desktop, I then dragged it to the Launchpad icon in the dock. Checked Launchpad again, and sure enough, there it was.

      Thanks for the tip!

      • I tried the exact same procedure with Adobe Reader, ie drag the icon of Reader from my Applications folder in Finder to my desktop then dragged the alias to Launchpad icon on the dock. It didn’t work–I’m on a brand new iMac with the latest version of Lion 10.7.1. Any thoughts, suggestions?

        • Just solved the problem–When I moved the alias to Launchpad it created a 2nd screen and being a new user did not know that Launchpad had 2 screens. Sorry

          • Glad to hear you got it sorted!

            Launchpad has as many screens as it needs for all your apps. Mine had something like 6 or 8 screen originally, until I got it under control. I do think Apple could have made it more obvious that there are additional screens beyond the first one. Those little white dots underneath the icons aren’t all that obvious.

            Interestingly, I had just downloaded Adobe Reader yesterday but hadn’t yet installed it. I was about to do an experiment by following your steps to see if it would show up in Launchpad. Then I saw your followup post and decided I could skip the experiment.

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