Organise Apps By Action Instead Of Category

Organise Apps By Action Instead Of Category

If you’re having trouble remembering where you have filed away an app on your phone’s home screen, consider organising your apps by action.

My good pal and former Lifehacker editor Gina Trapani spends a lot of time thinking about how to best communicate user interactions now that she’s developing software full time. As she’s currently testing out her first iPhone in years, her iPhone’s home screen is benefitting from that thought process:

By default, when you drag one app onto another to create a folder, iOS suggests a folder name based on the apps’ category, like “Reference”, “Music” or “Productivity”. I tried this for a while, but these category names were so vague they didn’t solve my problem, they just gave it a different shape. Instead of hunting for apps across homescreens, I pecked through multiple folders. (“Is in Photography or Social Networking?”) I look at my phone’s homescreen dozens of times a day, and I’m embarrassed to admit how much not getting it into a usable state bothered me.

Thinking it through, I realised this category-based naming convention just doesn’t align with my basic mental construct of what software is. Organising items by category makes sense in libraries and bookstores, on restaurant menus, in music and movies — but not apps. An app isn’t consumable media. An app is a tool. It helps you perform an action, to do something. That’s when I settled on a verb-based folder system.

These tiny touchscreen mobile computers we carry around in our pockets are the ultimate multi-tool. I use my phone to read, shop, watch, listen, cook, play, navigate, share, jot, photograph and chat, so I organised my apps just like that. The guiding question for where each app went was What do I DO with it? [Above is] a screenshot of my first pass at a verb-based interface using folders on my iPhone.

Makes sense to me. Whether you use a similar method or have your own trusted system for organising apps on your home screen, let’s hear about it in the comments.

Good Tools Have Verb-Based Interfaces [Smarterware]


  • I do something similar on my iPad, on the main bottom dock which can hold 6 icons. I prefer to keep my main home screen as minimalistic and icon free as possible.

    I have, in this order, safari, email, read (folder with ibooks, comiczeal, SHM..), play (folder with all my games), calender, celcius (weather app which shows live weather on the badge).

    It works great for me 🙂

  • Ive been doing something similar for a while now.

    I have apps out of folder on home screen, those are the ones i feel i want to be able to get at quickly.

    I have Phone, Mail, Comms (a folder with HeyTel, iMEssage, skype, MSN, facebook, voip phones), and Music in the dock.

    Next page is a page of games foldersthen alphabetised folders like App Mgmt, Books, Car, Catalogs, Finance, Flight, Food, Health, Internet, Medical, MElbourne, Movies, Music, Navigation, New, Photo, Reference, Recipes, Remote (apps for remote controlling PCs), shopping, i still have 5 or 6 pages of non-foldered apps, i never have time to organise them all, perhaps on my next flight to USA in 7 days ill do it.

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