Launchpad Kills Muscle Memory

Launchpad on Aug. 26 — I have my apps arranged just how I want them.

Launchpad on Aug. 26 — I have my apps arranged just how I want them.

I've been using Launchpad for a couple of months now, and it took me a while to figure out why Launchpad is so difficult to use as an application launcher.

It turns out that after I spent all that time initially dragging apps around in Launchpad and getting them arranged in way that suited me, Launchpad on its own moves apps around within the Launchpad screen.

What happens is, I drag a particular app to the first spot in the third row in Launchpad. I use Launchpad a few times to launch that app. My mouse hand developed muscle memory of where that app is — when I want to launch that app, I throw my mouse to the upper left of my screen to bring up Launchpad, then my hand automatically moves down to the first spot in the third row. I don't have to think about it; my hand knows where the app is. This is muscle memory, and it's very useful.

Muscle Memory Allows Us To Function Automatically

Muscle memory keeps you from having to think about every turn that you make on your drive to work every morning, and it keeps you from having to stop and ask yourself "Where do I keep the spoons?" when you want a bowl of cereal in the morning. Your hands know what drawer to open and where in the drawer the spoons are; you don't have to actively engage your brain for such a simple matter.

But imagine if a gremlin rearranged your kitchen drawers every night while you were sleeping. One day your spoons are at the far left in the top drawer next to your kitchen sink. A few days later, your spoons are in the middle slot in the second drawer down, next to your refrigerator. And a few days after that, your spoons are in the far right slot in the top drawer to the right of your dishwasher. Every day, whenever you need a spoon, you would have to stop and think, "Where are my spoons this week?" And on the morning after your spoons were moved, you would have to open drawers randomly until you found them.

That's what Launchpad is doing. I would go to launch an app that I've put in a specific location in Launchpad, and I end up launching something else.

At first, I figured it's my mistake; it's not uncommon to click the wrong thing by accident when I get in a hurry. And when it seemed that my apps weren't in quite the same place I thought I had put them, I thought that maybe I was misremembering where I had put them. I would move things around into a more logical arrangement and go on with my day.

But it kept happening. I would arrange my apps in Launchpad just so, and pretty soon it seemed like the apps were moving around without my knowledge. I would have to visually hunt for an app that I was positive I had put at the far right end of the second row.

So I took a few screenshots. I deliberately did not move anything around in Launchpad manually. I put everything where I wanted it, then left it alone except to activate Launchpad to launch an application. I took an initial screenshot, then another one a few days later, and another one a few days after that.

And I have now confirmed that yes, indeed, Launchpad moves apps around without my knowledge.

Here are my screenshots from my first Launchpad screen. The first one was taken Aug. 26, the second one on Sept. 2, and the third one today, Sept. 6.

Launchpad on Aug. 26 — I have my apps arranged just how I want them.

Launchpad on Aug. 26 — I have my apps arranged just how I want them.

Launchpad on Sept. 2. Some of the application icons have moved around.

Launchpad on Sept. 2. Some of the application icons have moved around.

In the screenshot above, notice the changes: One of my Firefox apps is gone from this screen altogether. (It's now way back on the third Launchpad screen.) The App Store has moved from the far end of the second row to the fourth spot in that row. iTunes has moved up from the third row to the second. Address Book, iCal, Parallels and iBank have moved leftward in the third row, while Studiometry and Terminal have moved rightward in that row. Microsoft Word hopped up from the first spot in the fourth row to the last spot on the third row.

Next, the screen shot below is from this morning (Sept. 6). Notice yet more changes made by the gremlins in my computer:

Launchpad on Sept. 6. The gremlins have been at it again.

Launchpad on Sept. 6. The gremlins have been at it again.

In the top row, EasyFind and Yojimbo have swapped places. iBank has moved another spot to the left in the third row, and iPhoto has moved further to the right in that row. Pages has been bumped up from the fourth row to third, and Word is back down on the fourth row again.

This is no reason to panic, but it's very annoying, and it interferes with productivity. My mouse hand became accustomed to going to the fourth row, first icon, to launch Word. Then I have to go to the third row, last spot for Word, and then a few days later back to the fourth row first spot again.

This is the same type of annoyance that Microsoft does with its silly "smart menus" — moving things around so that they're never in the same place they were the last time you used them. It makes it impossible to do things automatically; it destroys muscle memory. It slows me down.

I don't want someone coming into my kitchen and moving my spoons around, and I don't want any gremlins in my computer moving my Launchpad apps around.

Back to using the Dock for me. I'll load it back up with all my most common apps, and stick an alias in there to a folder of my next-level most common apps. Launchpad is forever banished, until and unless Apple programs the gremlins to leave it the heck alone!

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