Failure to Launch(pad)

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Hints & Tips, Troubleshooting

In OS X Lion Apple has added a new application (feature) called Launchpad. Basically it is a full screen application launcher reminicent of the Springboard launcher in iOS. After install Lion adds the Launchpad application to your Dock. On Macs with a built-in trackpad or Magic trackpad you can invoke Launchpad with a new 3-finger plus thumb pinch in gesture. I have a Macbook Pro and use it mainy as a desktop with an Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Magic Mouse. Since there isn’t a gesture for invoking Launchpad using a Magic Mouse I wanted an easier way to access Launchpad from my desktop setup. Lucikly it’s fairly simple to assign a keyboard shortcut to invoke Launchpad. I covered this tip in the latest Maccast, but in essence you do the following:

  1. Go into System Preferences–>Keyboard
  2. Click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab
  3. Select the ‘Launchpad & Dock’ category in the left colum
  4. In the right pane, check ON ‘Show Launchpad’ and double-click the area near where it lists the assigned shortcut keys (by default this is blank for Launchpad). That will make the area editable.
  5. Press the desired keyboard shortcut to assign it. (I assigned mine to the ‘F8’ key).
  6. Close the System Preferences

So this is what I did and it worked great. I was able to access Lunchpad just fine wth one tap of my F8 key and all was going great until this morning. I had been hearing reports of people having an issue where Launchpad application list was not being updated when installing new apps. I was fairly certian that I wasn’t having this issue, but I wanted to double check so I pressed my F8 key and… “Bonk!” I got the invalid key press system sound. I thought that maybe in my testing of Lion’s new Universal Access features I may have inadvertantly enabled something that was causing a conflict. I double checked my F-key settings and did all the standard keyboard troubleshooting, but couldn’t find anything wrong. I finally realized it was only Launchpad that wouldn’t respond to the assigned keyboard shortcut. I even tried assigning a completely different one, but to no avail. “Bonk!” was the only response it cared to give me. I was still able to open the Launchpad application from the Dock and even confimed that all the applications I had recently installed were in there. I wasn’t suffering from the issue I had been hearing about, but I had determined Launchpad was definately my culprit. I thought I should at least try the fix that had been reported for the other Launchpad issue and see what would happen. Long story short, it fixed my issue too.

Doing Launchpad Repair

It seems like Apple has some more tweaking to do with respect to Launchpad. In the meantime though, it appears there may be a universal perscription for general Launchpad issues. I found this information over on TUAW and it’s referenced from an original article by the folks over at HaiTeq. In those articles it specifically mentions this proceedure for fixing a Lunchpad that is missing newly installed applications. Since it also fixed my keyboard shortcut issue I decided to write it up here and share it for those who may have suffered a similar fate to mine. Here’s the proceedure.

  1. Launch Terminal (from /Applications/Utilities/Terminal).
  2. Navigate to the Application Support folder in question (cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock)
  3. Open the folder (open .) and drag all the .db files to the trash.
  4. Restart Dock (sudo killall Dock, followed by authentication)

Small disclaimer. Launchpad is a new technology and mucking about with it’s core files could have unexpected results. Anytime you go messing around in the bowels of the OS there is potential for trouble. This fix seems to have worked for me, but your results might not be the same. You have been warned.

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