How to Organize Your Apps and Folders on Your iPhone to Get the Most Out of Your Device

The longer you have an iPhone or iPad, the more apps you’ll have. Some of them have been removed from your iOS screens a long time ago, others are hanging on for dear life, and others are going to be mainstays. So as your app count grows and grows, how do you keep them organized so that you don’t lose efficiency or effectiveness while using the device?


It all comes down to screen and folder management.

In this article, I’m going to give you a walk-through of my screens and folders on my iPhone so you can see exactly how to lay them out for maximum productivity.

The Dock

The dock is the only consistent area you have on the iPhone, as it carries over onto every screen you have. In this area you will want to place your most useful apps. Notice that I didn’t say your most-used apps. That’s because apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Mai really shouldn’t be positioned on the dock. The dock should contain apps that propel you forward rather than keep you standing still (or worse, hold you back).

The Dock

For instant communication, I’ve got both Phone and Messages in my dock, alongside Flow for task management and Launch Center Pro (which can access a multitude of my other apps, as outlined in this post).

The dock is a sacred place, so only populate it with your most useful apps.

The Home Screen

Next to the dock, the home screen is very sacred as well. This screen is where you want your most used apps that can also serve to keep you moving. Again you’ll notice I don’t have any social networking apps on this screen, only apps that either provide me with essential information without sucking me in for too long or apps that I can enter information into. This is key.

The Home Screen

I don’t keep Mail here, either. I use AwayFind for email notifications, so it has a place on this screen. For calendar management, I’m using Doodle, and my weather app of choice is S•lar. For a more robust alarm clock experience, I’m using Night Stand HD (although I have started to shift back to using the native app once again), and I use Soulver for calculations and so on. Safari does have a home on this screen, as do more productivity-centric apps like Checkmark, Evernote, My Minutes, EISENHOWER, Lift, and Asana. Every person is going to have a different set of apps on this screen, but the thing to remember is that the apps on your home screen are there because you access them often – and the screen’s layout should be as useful as the apps on it.

(You’ll also notice that I keep the bottom row empty in order to avoid inadvertent clicks while scrolling through pages, and I also don’t keep any folders on the home page. Again…the quicker the access, the better.)

The Second Screen

The second screens is almost all folders. It contains apps of various types within each folder, and the folders are named as such. These apps aren’t accessed as regularly as the apps on my dock or home screen, but if you look at the categories of the folders then you’ll notice that they are ideal app types for the platform (yes, even games).

The Second Screen

The Settings app is the only “non-foldered” app on this screen, and for good reason. I may not to access it as often as I do the times on my home screen, but when I need it – I want it readily available. So should you.

(Settings shouldn’t be on the home screen because the app lends itself to fiddling, which is not the idea behind using your iPhone. Just wait until you read where I’ve put the App Store app…)

Each folder is named after an activity that will be undertaken by the apps within it. Mail finally makes an appearance here in the Communications folder (although there’s a good chance you’ll hear from it more often in Notification Center). You can quickly look at this screen if you have an app in mind and know where to look. That’s what you want in the second screen; it’s where the bulk of your apps will live.

The Third Screen

This is the last screen you should have on your iPhone (Yep, no more than three screens is the goal). On this screen I place the apps that can serve to distract – and I also put some of my hidden treasure apps here. Fish is one of those. I like to revisit that app every so often, so by not burying it in a folder and instead on the last screen, I don’t forget about it altogether.

The Third (and last) Screen

The App Store is here for two reasons. It keeps you from surfing for apps more often than using the apps you have, and the update badge (when updates are needed) doesn’t stare at you in the face nearly as often. Newsstand is here because I can’t put it in a folder and it hasn’t given me much in terms of use cases yet, and all of the stock apps that I don’t use sit in a folder called “Not Using”. I can’t get rid of them, so I bury them there instead.

You’ll notice that my social network apps are here as well. If I didn’t have Launch Center Pro, they’d probably reside only second screen in a folder. But my layout allows me to put them on the last screen instead, keeping the distractable nature of social media one additional swipe from getting opened more often.

The Last Word

Remember that you can flick your finger to the left from your home screen and search for an app if you need to access it, so managing your screens and folders in the way I’ve outlined doesn’t bury apps too deeply.

The iPhone is meant to keep you connected while you’re on the go, and the efficient and effective management of your apps through the use of screens and folders can really boost your productivity to new heights.

But you have to do the front-end work to make it happen because, well, there’s not an app for that.

Photo credit: Yutaka Tsutano (CC BY 2.0)

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  • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

    Aren’t ya missing an available row there Mike?

    • http://mikevardy.com/ Mike Vardy

      I keep the bottom row clear so that when you swipe through screens you don’t inadvertently open an app.

      • Kimk69

        I don’t know, when I hold the phone in hand I never swipe that low to turn a page and can honestly say I don’t recall ever inadvertently opening an app (from swiping) pages. To each his own I guess.

      • http://www.RickKettner.com/ Rick Kettner

        I’ve never experienced inadvertently opening an app. Seems like a big sacrafice for something so rare.

      • KT

        I think it just plain looks better with the last row open. I have been doing the same thing on my iphone for years.

      • CMR

        Mike, how did you create that empty row? Do you use a placeholder?

  • bcsc

    My phone has an app drawer that allows me to not have a cluttered home screen. I just click the drawer button and poof there they are. it also has widgets on it, and is theme-able. Freedom is wonderful.

    • bcsc

      Also my ability to add more than 12 apps to a folder is a real asset to mot having 11 full folders clogging things up.

  • Anon

    Best article ever, although I’ve condensed it for you: Put apps in folders. OMG.

  • Alan

    People need to get off their high horse, this is a useful article for beginners and a reminder for people like me who have apps scattered all over the place. After reading the title one should know what to expect, if it is too basic, skip it rather than complaining about it.

    • Kimk69

      Ah shut up. Nobody’s saying anything bad here. It’s comments. Everyone needs to say the same thing. Great article, great article, hey, great article.

  • MuscleMass

    Thank you, Mike. Great insightful tips. My phone is just a “hot mess” of apps right now.

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    I’ve got only two screens. Home screen, full and the second screen with folders. I don’t mind settings. I want to turn on/off wifi 3g/2g for battery management if necessary.

    In my dock I use Drafts, instead of messages, and camera app instead of Flow. I love to snap photos often, and this makes it great.

  • Kraken

    You can put folders into the dock. Knowing this changed my life, and it works on both IOS and Android

  • IHateNerds

    Nerd lol