June 20, 2011, 3:32 PM — The very first incarnation of the Mac OS offered folders for organizing files. Not so for the first iteration of the iPhone. It took until June 2010 and the release of iOS 4 for folders to arrive on iOS devices. Whether your iPhone is sparsely loaded with Apple's default apps, your app count totals in the hundreds, or you fall somewhere in between, iOS folders--despite a few limitations--provide a simple way to streamline your home screens.
If you're not familiar with folders, we run through the two methods for creating them and organizing them--one you can use directly on your iOS device and the other that you can manage through iTunes. We follow that up with a few folder tips and tricks. And don't worry about whether iOS 5 will render all of this moot when it arrives this fall--from what we've seen of Apple's forthcoming iOS update, the folders feature remains intact.
Create folders with your device
One folder-creation approach involves using your iPhone (or iPad) directly. To create a folder, you need to drag one app on top of another.
1. Tap and hold on any app's icon on your phone, until all the icons start to jiggle.
2. Once the icons are jiggling away, tap and drag one of the apps you'd like to tuck into a folder onto a second app. (Yes, if you mistakenly tap the X attached to a jiggling app's icon, you would theoretically delete it. But don't fret about a misplaced tap: iOS will prompt you first to make sure you really want to delete the app.) After you hold the first icon on top of the other one for a second or two, your new folder gets created.
3. By default, iOS will attempt to name the new folder based on the genre of the apps you put into it. You're free to change the name to anything you'd like, of course. Just tap in the text field with the name, and edit it as you desire.
4. At this point, your apps are still jiggling. If you want to add more apps to the new folder, tap outside the dark folder background, on any exposed area of your main home screen behind it. If you want to grab an app from another home screen, you can swipe over to that one, and then painstakingly drag it to the screen with the destination folder. To do that, drag the icon to the edge of your screen and hold it there until the device advances to the next screen.
5. When you're finished filling up your new folder, tap the Home button to stop the jigging.