How to sort apps A to Z on your iPhone

Are your iPhone’s apps a big mess– disorganized, hard to find? Use the iPhone’s Reset Home Screen Layout command to lay them out A to Z.

This article was written for iOS 13, and it applies to iOS 14 as well. However, there’s something new in iOS 14– see the addendum at the bottom of this article.

Rearranging apps on an iPhone has always been difficult, and frankly Apple made it even harder in iOS 13. You tap an app, you hold on an app, you drag an app… and then you lose an app by dropping it somewhere by mistake. Good luck finding it after that!

Sometimes you just want to start over, putting your iPhone’s standard Apple apps up front on page 1, and everything else sorted A to Z on the pages after that. It turns out you can do it really easily. Here’s how.

  1. Go to the Settings app, then General, then scroll way down to “Reset.”
  2. Choose “Reset Home Screen Layout.” You’ll get a warning and a chance to cancel. Assuming you go ahead with it, the Home Screen layout(s) will be reset.

Here’s what you’re looking for in the Settings app:

Resetting the Home Screen Layout

Here’s the “Before” images (every page of Home screens, in order)

iPhone Home Screens, sorted any which way

Here are the “After” screens, all of them, in order:

iPhone Home Screens, after resetting

Let’s look at the first two screens especially. Here’s Home Screen 1:

Home Screen 1 after resetting

First thing to notice is that the Apple apps come first, and that they’re not in alphabetical order, and they aren’t all on the first page after all. Here’s the second Home screen, after the reset:

Home Screen 2, after resetting

Home Screen 2 has more Apple apps, then a folder called “Utilities.” That folder holds four more Apple apps: Voice Memos, Compass, Measure, and Calculator.

Once you get past the Apple Apps everything is alphabetical (except for the ones that aren’t, like the few at the bottom of Home Screen 1, and this non-Apple Weather app). I have a feeling that the developers of those apps have done something sneaky to get their apps to sort at the top. But, apart from those few weirdo apps that are not sorted A to Z by their names, the rest are.

Note: there’s a limit on the number of Home Screens. You get 15. You’ll notice, if you look at the “After” picture, that after resetting the Home Screen layout my apps only go up to the letter “P.” That’s because there’s nowhere to put the apps that start with Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. (Yes I might have too many apps.) But, if I group some apps by dragging one app on top of another, little by little I will create room on the 15th page.

Note 2: just because an app isn’t displayed on a Home Screen doesn’t mean it’s not on the phone. One can do a search to find the app and if the app is installed it will launch, even though it’s not findable on a Home Screen. For example, on my phone I can search for the letter X, finding four apps that have an X in their names, even though some of them can’t be found visually by paging through Home screens.

Here’s how it looks when I search for the letter “x.”

Searching for the letter X, using Spotlight

(I searched by putting my finger anywhere on any home screen and pulling down, which then displayed a search box at the top. Actually you can’t quite put your finger “anywhere” on any home screen. Don’t put it at the very top as that space is reserved for other things like Notifications and Control Center. In practice, putting your finger somewhere in the middle of the screen and pulling down does the trick. This is officially known as “Spotlight search.”)

By entering an “x” I find four apps, including one whose name starts with X, even though my Home screens don’t display any apps whose names start with X. Tip: don’t look for apps by eye. Use the built-in Spotlight search instead.. Or use Siri.

One other thing to notice: resetting the Home Screen Layout eliminated my folders. This will happen to you too. Any apps that you have grouped by dragging one on top of another will be taken out of their folders.

Of course, you probably don’t really want your apps strictly in A to Z order. You probably want to arrange them just so. Click for a tip that makes rearranging iPhone apps much, much easier. The basic idea: use the Dock across the bottom of the iPhone to temporarily park an app, then scroll to the right Home screen, then drag the app out of the Dock and into place.

That’s it. Any questions? Use the form in the About page to contact me.

iOS 14 Addendum

iOS 14 introduces the “App Library,” found after your last Home screen. Simply swipe past the last home screen and you’ll see your apps grouped according to category (as defined by the app). There’s a search box at the top, and as soon as you tap in it you’ll see a list of your installed apps, in alphabetical order. This makes it very quick to find an app, and it lets you keep the careful organization and layout of apps that you’ve done on your first couple of Home screens.

The App Library in iOS 14, showing groups and alphabetical list

Author: Christian Boyce

Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone expert specializing in teaching people how to use Apple devices better, to get more done with them, and to have more fun doing it. He bought his first Mac (a Mac Plus) in 1986 and his first iPhone in 2007. He's written books and magazine articles, and given seminars at Macworld Expo, MacFair/LA, and the California Computer Expo. Over 30 years in the business.

3 thoughts on “How to sort apps A to Z on your iPhone”

  1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
    Christian Boyce says:

    Any questions? Comments? This is the place.

  2. Hi. Thanks for this. It’s very helpful. One more question – I have the first page as just the apps that I use all the time. I want to alphabetically order everything on all the next pages. Is that possible? Thanks

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