Monday, Oct 24, 2022, 16:44 Mac: Software

Editorial: Stage Manager in macOS Ventura – Unnecessary & Riddled With Bugs

One of the most frequently mentioned points of critique about the iPad is the missing ability (or at least, its rather unflexible ability to do so in comparison to a standard computer) to work with multiple apps at the same time. Of course, two apps can be run at once via Split View – however, the feature's configuration is painstaking and difficult to understand. Apple hopes to change this in iPadOS 16 with the addition of Stage Manager: The feature enables the simultaneous usage of up to 4 apps in separate, repositionable windows – similar to on a conventional desktop. Apple hopes to significantly increase the attractivity of the iPad as a productivity implement capable of rivalling standard computers and particularly competing with Microsoft's hybrid laptop/tablet Surface Pro – however, only certain models can truly appreciate the feature in its full form. iPads without M-chips (apart from the iPad Pro 2018 and 2022 with A12X/A12Z) don't support the feature.

Does The Mac Really Need Another Window Manager?
As Apple continues to intertwine its three largest operating systems, macOS, iOS, and iPadOS more and more, Stage Manager has made its way over to not only iPadOS, but also macOS. Unlike on the iPad, the possibilities presented by the feature – the ability to simultaneously manage multiple windows running differing programs, already exist fully independently and in plenty of other forms on the Mac.



Application windows and apps have always been freely positionable on the Mac – Mac OS X 10.3 even introduced the "Exposé" function, allowing users to call up an overview of all current windows for particularly disorganized or window-intensive usage sessions. The Dock on macOS also creates a little white dot under all currently active or opened apps. When a window isn't in use, it can easily be positioned within the dock for later retrieval. Additionally, the Mac also has had "Spaces", also referred to as Mission Control, since Mac OS X Leopard. The feature allows users to create virtual desktops and then switch between them, as to avoid disorganization during multiple tasks involving multiple sets of windows. It's even possible to hide an app and all of its windows without entirely ending the app on macOS.

All of these aforementioned features are still a part of macOS Ventura, which now also includes Stage Manager, although the necessity or even theoretical relevance of Apple's newest window manager is called into question – particularly given its overlap with many of the other functions mentioned. With Stage Manager, individual apps or groups of apps can be defined – after which only these will be shown on the desktop. All other open windows or groups of apps are then displayed on the left edge of the display by Stage Manager. Should a window from this selection on the left be chosen, the currently selected content will disappear and the new content will arrive at the forefront of the desktop.

Maximum Confusion
Apple conceived Stage Manager for the iPad, due to the tablet's inability to run multiple apps in parallel. However, the company's decision to then include the window manager on the Mac, particularly without any major adaptations that consider the Mac's other alreadz available implements, could easily lead to some confusion to many users. The plethora of different functions for window management on Mac is so diverse, that it almost seems bloated after the inclusion of Stage Manager. Mission Control allows users to split tasks up into different desktops – but so does Stage Manager. Individual windows can be stored in the dock via the yellow-gold button at the top left of each window – but Stage Manager can do the same. Exposé, however, completely ignores Stage Manager, and once activated – it displays all available windows, not only the ones present in Stage Manager's groups.

Conclusion? Bloated
Due to Apple's general approach, platform strategy, and the Apple ecosystem, it makes sense for all of the company's operating systems to maintain at least some similarities with one another. Thus, it's also sensible for window management on iPadOS and macOS to bear similarity to one another – however, Apple could have meshed Stage Manager with the other, similar options on macOS much better – or even completely reworked window management on the Mac altogether. In macOS Ventura, Stage Manager comes across as a relatively thoughtless, "plastered on" feature – which still contains many errors and display problems.

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