Tips and tricks for organising your iPhone apps

An iPhone is only as useful as the apps you keep on it — and how quickly you can get to them when you need them. I have a few strategies for how I arrange my apps to help keep them organised, putting them within easy reach of my fingers, and thus increasing my efficiency by reducing the time it takes me to find the apps I use most often.

Sometimes, people inadvertently believe that being "organised" means that their apps should be in a certain order from left to right, or top to bottom. I disagree.

Here are four tips for keeping your iPhone apps truly organised. If you're a novice iPhone user, you'll find a quick how-to at the end of each tip.

1. Use your hotspots

The home button of an iPhone (the round one) and the app dock (the area where you can lock four apps to the bottom of the screen) are near one another on the iPhone for a reason. They're meant to be the areas of the phone you touch most frequently, which explains why Apple kept them together: for efficiency.

Similarly, the nearest areas of the screen are also what I like to call "hotspots" or zones where you fingers hover most often.

If you use your thumbs to navigate your phone and are right-handed, your hot spots are probably the lower right corner and leftmost column.

Because I don't have dexterous thumbs, I hold my phone in a slightly unusual way. I hold it in the palm of my left hand and use the middle finger of my right hand to tap and swipe. As a result, my hotspots are the bottom two rows of the home screen.

You may have already utilised your hotspots, wherever they happen to fall for you, by putting your most-used apps in those locations. But if not, be sure to take advantage of those zones.

How to move an app: If you're a true iPhone beginner, apps can be moved around the screen by pressing and holding any app icon until it jiggles, which means the apps are now unlocked. Now simply hold and slide the app icon around screen until it's where you want it to be. Need to delete an app? Just tap the 'X' in the upper left corner. Apps without an 'X' cannot be deleted. When you're finished, just tap the home button once.

2. Consider clustering

The second trick is to cluster your apps. By "clustering," I mean position them near one another on the screen, but not in a folder (using folders is a different trick). It takes an extra tap to open a folder, and while one tap might seems trivial, there's a whole field of research devoted to measuring how much time we waste with unnecessary movements and keystrokes. Those unnecessary motions add up!

You've likely already clustered your four most frequently used, or most "important" (however you define it) apps in the dock and around your primary hotspots. Clustering works in other areas as well, though.

On the second screen of my phone, I have clustered together a few social media apps: Vine, Facebook, Flickr, and Pinterest. I "hang out" in that cluster when I'm relaxing and using my phone to leisurely check out what's new. I keep them on the second screen, rather than the first, because I don't want to tempt myself into looking at those apps too frequently. I reserve the home screen for apps that are more important to me.

Another example might be if you travel often for business, you could cluster together your preferred airline's app, a scheduling app, and maybe an office suite app.

How to put apps in the dock: You can only have four apps in the dock at one time. To change which ones are there, tap and hold any app until it jiggles. Then hold and slide an app out of the dock to free up space. You can now fill that empty slot with a different app. You can also change the order of the apps in the dock by pressing and sliding them. When you're done, press the home button once.

3. File into folders

There are two ways to use folders: by app theme and by use.

Folders let you group apps together and name the set while only taking up one slot on the home screen. You can have up to 16 apps in any folder.

Theme. The most obvious method for putting apps into folders is by theme — that is, apps that are similar to one another, such as putting all music streaming apps together, or all games together.

Whether you want to organise your apps into folders based on similarity depends on how you use them. For example, do you consider all your music streaming options before listening to music, or do you tend to always go for the same favourite app? If it were me and the latter were true, I'd leave the favourite app on the home screen and shunt the rest into a "Music Streaming" folder; or depending on how many apps I had, I might make an "Entertainment" folder.

Themed folders don't have to only hold apps of the same genre, though. I have a theme folder that lives at the top of my home screen called "Apple apps," which holds apps that came pre-installed on the phone, but which I don't use frequently.

I have another assorted collection of apps in a folder called "Apps to Test," meaning these are miscellaneous apps I've downloaded and want to try out sometime, but not with any great urgency.

Usage. Another way to group apps into folders is by how or when you use them. Once again, let's take the case of a business traveller, but this time, it's someone who travels less often. Instead of clustering those apps for air travel, scheduling, and productivity on the home screen, you might slot them into a folder called "Business Travel Essentials" or something along those lines.

How to make folders: To create a folder, press and hold any app until they all jiggle. Press and slide any app on top of any other app until the iPhone automatically creates a folder. Release the app, and you can tap the text field at the top of the folder to change its name. Press anywhere outside the folder to return to the home screen and to continue sliding more apps into the folder. When you're done, press the home button once.

4. Leave blanks, and stick extra apps in the back

Don't feel bad about leaving blank spaces on your screens! You don't have to fill every slot. You can still drag apps back (to the right) to another home screen even if you don't fill up the preceding screen 100 per cent.

I like to drag lesser-used apps and folders way back to the fourth or fifth screen so they're out of sight most of the time.

When I do need to access the apps that are hidden back there, I usually navigate to the iPhone's search feature, which you can reach by swiping left-to-right from your first home screen, or by tapping the home button once.

How to create another home screen page: Press and hold any app until it starts to jiggle. Press and slide any app or folder as far to the right as you can go. When you reach the edge, there will be a slight delay, but then you'll move to the next page. If you repeat that process until your last home screen page, the iPhone will create a new one. Simply lift your finger to deposit the app or folder on the new page, and press the home button once to finish. You can create up to 11 screens (though I don't recommend it)!

Order of importance

Based on the order of importance (again, "important" can mean whatever you define it as), use your iPhone app organising strategies like this:

  • Hotspots: reserve for the most important apps
  • Clusters: use for apps that are frequently used, but less important
  • Folders: group apps you don't use often into folders by either theme or how you use them
  • Back-most home screen: stick apps that you use the least here