It’s time to rethink window management
Apple’s new Stage Manager will be released with macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16. It’s an entirely new multitasking interface that automatically organizes your apps and windows to help you switch between tasks.
It’s a really interesting feature. Here are five things you should know before trying it out on your device.
1. It Doesn’t Replace Spaces or Mission Control
There are already multiple ways to manage your open windows on a Mac. You can use Spaces, Mission Control, and even Cmd+Tab to switch between the apps you are working with.
Stage Manager will not replace any of these features. In fact, Apple says that it is designed to work alongside existing options like Spaces and Mission Control because you can have Stage Manager active on multiple desktops at once.
In short, it’s an additional option for Mac users. You don’t have to use it as part of your workflow, but if you like how it works, you absolutely can.
2. It’s Been in Development for Years
On a recent episode of The Talk Show, Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, revealed that Stage Manager has been in development for several years.
“This one has been a passion project for a bunch of us for an incredibly long time…and it’s our favorite new way to work on the Mac.”
In many ways, I find this reassuring. Knowing that Stage Manager is something Apple revisited regularly as part of the development cycle gives you some reassurance. It’s not just a fly-by-night feature they are throwing against the wall to see if it will stick.
3. It’s Not Finished Yet
Stage Manager is still in development. Right now, it is still in the beta release cycle for macOS and iPadOS, but Federighi revealed to TechCrunch that this is just the first version. There is more still to come.
“We already had a number of (additional features) planned as it relates to Stage Manager both on Mac and iPad…and some of the feedback we’ve received are things where we’re like ‘yeah, I mean that that’s coming in seed two or seed three!’ We already have those things identified, either that or bugs or just incomplete elements or tweaks to behavior.”
This is often the case at WWDC. You see a demo of a new feature, but that feature will continue to evolve until the final release in the Fall, and Apple does listen to the feedback it gets from beta testers.
4. It Needs an M1 Processor on iPadOS
The iPad demo at WWDC looked great, but Stage Manager will not be available to all iPad users. Apple says it is only compatible with the newest iPad Air or iPad Pro devices.
While speaking to Forbes, Federighi confirmed that Apple’s M1 processor was required to use Stage Manager on the iPad. He said Apple tested it on other iPads, but the performance was just not good enough.
“We began some of our prototyping involving those systems, and it became apparent early on that we couldn’t deliver the experience that we were designing toward with them. Certainly, we would love to bring any new experience to every device we can, but we also don’t want to hold back the definition of a new experience and not create the best foundation for the future in that experience. And we really could only do that by building on the M1.”
This is obviously disappointing for those of us who have come to expect support for older devices, but in this case, it appears that Apple was unwilling to compromise the functionality to make it work on lesser machines.
5. It Has Full External Display Support for iPad
If you are fortunate enough to own an iPad with an M1 processor, Stage Manager unlocks full external display support for dual-screen multitasking. This is something iPad users have wanted for years.
Before iPadOS 16, you could plug an iPad into an external monitor, but it retained the tablet’s 4:3 aspect ratio. This meant you would always have black bars on the left and right of your screen. You also couldn’t have different apps open on each screen. iPadOS 16 changes that.
When your iPad is connected to a monitor and a trackpad (or mouse), it will automatically resize to give you a full-screen external display. This allows you to have four app groups on the iPad and an additional four apps on an external monitor. And no black bars in sight.
With Stage Manager activated, you can drag and drop things from the iPad to the external monitor or vice versa. You can also resize app windows.
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