Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Stage Manager in macOS 13.0

Andrew Cunningham:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many complaints about a new Apple feature as I have about Stage Manager on the iPad. […] So imagine my surprise when Stage Manager on a Mac worked—and worked pretty well. And I actually kind of liked it.


Within a given stage, app windows work exactly as they do anywhere else on your Mac. You can move, resize, and rearrange them any way you want, including shoving them all the way to the edges of the screen. The recent apps column will persist on the side of the screen by default, but it will get out of the way if you move an app window over it; you can bring the apps back up by moving your cursor to the right edge of the screen.

The Mac’s version of Stage Manager has multi-monitor support from the start, and it works on all the Macs that run Ventura, not just a subset of newer models. Every individual monitor is treated as its own stage with its own recent apps list.


Stage Manager integrates seamlessly with macOS’s other window management systems.

John Voorhees:

I love Stage Manager, Apple’s new mode for managing apps on your Mac’s desktop. But it’s not an unconditional, all-in sort of love. It’s complicated.

When Stage Manager is set up and running the way I want, it’s fantastic. The trouble is the ‘set up’ part. The feature is simply too laborious to set up, and some of its interactions are an over-caffeinated mess.


You would think you’d be able to drag any app out of a mixed set of apps and onto the stage, but you can’t. Even if you click on an app’s icon in a mixed set, you can only drag the top app in the pile onto the stage. If the same app is paired as a set with any other app in the strip, only the top app can be dragged onto the stage.


I quickly turned on ‘All at Once’ and never looked back because I found the alternative distracting and confusing. As I’ll explain below, Stage Manager already sends things to the strip more often than I’d like and doesn’t provide enough ways to add apps to the current stage. That problem is only exacerbated by turning ‘One at a Time’ on, so I don’t recommend using that option.


Stage Manager is in desperate need of keyboard shortcuts, a right-click menu, and Shortcuts support.

Jason Snell:

IMO if managing the stages wastes time it’s not worth it over just having those windows together. Apple could improve this a lot, and I hope they do.

Jason Snell:

Stage Manager also feels a bit like an admission on Apple’s part that Full Screen mode, which strives to create an iPad-like experience on the Mac, misses the mark. I never use Full Screen mode, even on apps that would benefit from the utter takeover of my Mac’s display, because it really doesn’t work well with Finder. I’m dragging files into Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro all the time, and every time I try to use them in Full Screen mode I end up getting frustrated by all the mode switching and give up. Stage Manager, on the other hand, lets you display your desktop items in the background, or you can click on the Desktop to switch to the Finder and go grab what you want.


One of the features that I appreciate about Stage Manager is that it isn’t a reinvention of how Mac windows behave, beyond the grouping and the toggling between them. It doesn’t enforce a specific size, location, or even layering order on windows—everything feels natural and Mac-like.

Unfortunately, Stage Manager trades in the drudgery and confusion of managing multiple windows for the drudgery and confusion of arranging windows and stages in Stage Manager. I can’t go more than a few minutes in Stage Manager without clicking on something and being whisked away to a new stage, even when the most logical thing would be to assume that if I’m clicking on an item in one workspace, I want to add items to the same workspace.

Engin Kurutepe:

I like Stage Manager on Mac. It’s not world changing but it’s a nice gimmick.

David Pierce:

Stage Manager, as a concept, makes sense on a Mac because it adds some structure to the free-form system, letting you quickly collect your mess. In that way, it reminds me of the Mac’s desktop Stacks feature, which automatically creates folders for different file types on your desktop. It’s a simple way to rein in the chaos.


Update (2022-10-27): Jack Wellborn:

Like driving stick on hilly rural roads, I find managing a small number of windows more satisfying than burdensome. Users on today’s computers can easily amass dozens of windows from a variety of apps. Furthermore, these apps and windows persist, even between reboots. There is no intrinsic impetus that forces users to quit latent apps or close latent windows. Manual windowed interfaces became cognitively burdensome when faced with unlimited persistent windows found in modern desktop computers. While some still find them delightful, more and more people find desktop computers harder and more annoying.


Full-screens, split views and grids all treat overlapping windows as part of, if not the root cause behind, burdensome window management. To me that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. While there is no question in my mind that windowed interfaces have become burdensome to most users, I don’t think overlapping windows are the problem. It’s that there are too many of them and they all need to be manually managed.


In my experience, user created sets are where Stage Manager shines. The set I am currently using while writing this review has windows from BBEdit and Safari. I also have sets for Discord and Slack, as well as Twitter and Tweetbot. I look forward to having Visual Studio Code and Terminal sets once I am allowed to install Ventura on my work machine. Sets let me focus on the work at hand by reducing the clutter while still keeping other windows and apps visually close at hand.


The lack of AppleScript support, while disappointing, is unsurprising, but there aren’t even any Stage Manager actions available in Shortcuts.

Update (2022-11-02): Howard Oakley:

In the right situation, you can even use Stage Manager with a single app centrestage, pulling in windows from the cast as you need them. As with all good interface tools, Stage Manager doesn’t dictate how you use its features, and it’s up to you to see whether the tools it provides are an efficient solution.

Bringing apps onto the stage is another flexible action. Instead of clicking on them in the cast, I often fetch them using the Dock. Stage Manager remembers how I prefer it set up: in the morning when I load its cast, it automatically groups Tweetbot and Safari together, as I like them, so I don’t have to recreate the same layout that I had when I quit apps the previous night.

Update (2022-11-03): Peter Ammon:

I enabled Stage Manager on #macOSVentura and a week later I’m still using it. It’s really good at decluttering! Existing muscle memory still works (command-tab, command-tilde) and it’s got some nice touches of its own.


My only wish is that the animations could be made faster!

Nick Heer:

I only have Ventura on my laptop, but I bet that is the context where the Mac version of Stage Manager makes the most sense. Its single-application mode and aggressive animations have made me think twice about habitually ⌘-Tabbing over to my Twitter client, and I find it makes it easier for me to juggle multiple windows while reducing clutter. It is imperfect, but it feels successful in a way that is surprising to me. Who knew MacOS needed yet another way to manage windows? Turns out.

Update (2023-01-12): Howard Oakley:

Stage Manager is one of those features in Ventura that you either love or ignore. I’ve been using it almost full-time for the last four months, and am surprised that there don’t appear to be many good tutorials available yet. This is my attempt to help you get to grips with what Stage Manager has to offer.

Update (2023-01-13): Howard Oakley:

In this article, I’ll explain how I set up and use Stage Manager for routine and special purposes.

Update (2023-01-18): Howard Oakley:

What happens when you select one of the Cast in Stage Manager is that all the windows in that group are put on Stage, even though some of them may belong to apps in other groups. This makes Stage Manager more complicated, and some of its behaviours more unexpected. This article shows how windows and apps interact when Stage Manager is enabled.

Update (2023-01-27): Howard Oakley:

Ventura’s Stage Manager doesn’t cope equally well with all these window types. In comments here, Bernie kindly drew attention to problems it experiences with windows intended to remain in front, on Apple silicon Macs. This article explains what goes wrong, how to deal with it, and where the bug is likely to be.


Stage Manager currently has other problems with different types of windows, although those usually affect both architectures. For example, apps based on AppKit normally form persistent window groups, remembered by Stage Manager between launches. But some apps using SwiftUI, like the Twitter client, don’t persist at all, and have to be added to groups every time they’re opened.

Update (2023-05-22): Rui Carmo:

Again, the only thing Stage Manager affords me over traditional Mission Control/Spaces is that I can see all my “contexts” on screen. And I’m really sad that is the only benefit it brings. I guess that Apple thought it would be better than virtual desktops in that regard if you can spare the screen real estate, but since it fails rather spectacularly in making switching between activities more efficient., I have to wonder why it came about in the first place (iPadOS would work fine with a direct port of Mission Control).

So maybe window groups are something that was dreamt up for, say, the allegedly upcoming headset. Or just a way to make Mission Control more visually accessible. I don’t know–what I do know is that, for actual work and constant context switching, it fails to deliver in both ease of use and efficiency.

For me, a huge part of that is the lack of proper keyboard shortcuts to switch between groups (on the Mac), and the awkward workarounds you need to do to add or remove windows from a group–and I’m frustrated that Apple hasn’t accounted for either.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Everyone must have lost their minds, because Stage Manager has to be about the dumbest thing I've seen Apple do to the Mac in the past decade -- and there's a long list of WTF from OS X 10.9 to now. I don't see the point of it at all. Do people not know how to use CMD-~ CMD-Tab and Spaces? I have no idea what problem Apple is trying to solve.

I actually like Stage Manager, but it’s missing some key functionality for people that like to keep their fingers on the keyboard.

I’ve added keyboard support for navigating stages in rcmd (https://lowtechguys.com/rcmd) and it makes Stage Manager so much more useful for me.

Here’s a video demo on how I like to use it: https://youtu.be/dlwjSf7aIy8

Working with one screen and single apps it is fine. Copying Excel data from one sheet to another? Forget it.

When working with multiple windows of the same app across two displays or video calls with a separate chat window and it just is in the way of any productivity whatsoever.

I never use full screen and I'm really excited about stage manager.

Not install me Apple software on day 1 excited, but still excited

I actually think Stage Manager has potential on Mac. It doesn't work exactly the way I expect it to. I would like a preference to be able to open New windows by default in the current stage (and if I decide to make a new stage with the newly created window I'll drag it to the side). That isn't currently possible with Stage Manager, every time I open a New Finder window (by hitting the icon in the Dock or opening the Trash) I'm thrown into a new Stage and it makes me feel a bit drunk.

Also I can't use Stage Manager with Interface Builder because if you open the Object library to drag something out you get thrown in a new Stage...and you can't actually drag and drop the view onto the canvas because you're now in an empty stage.

> While there is no question in my mind that windowed interfaces have become burdensome to most users, I don’t think overlapping windows are the problem. It’s that there are too many of them and they all need to be manually managed.

Manually managing windows is a feature, not a bug.

> In my experience, user created sets are where Stage Manager shines. The set I am currently using while writing this review has windows from BBEdit and Safari. I also have sets for Discord and Slack, as well as Twitter and Tweetbot.

That's what Spaces / multiple desktops are for.

Again, what problem is Stage Manager trying to solve? To me, it's just a confusing mess when there are already other more straightforward and predictable ways to manage windows and workspaces.

I used full screen apps and Spaces on smaller macs like photo editing on an 11” MacBook Air for many years. (The 11” was the only Mac laptop that would fit into my camera bag and it was light)

Not much point to using full screen on a large-screen desktop Mac - so I rarely do (ocassionally iTunes).

It’s all ‘horses for courses’ and giving people more options is great - nothing (as far as I know) has been taken away.

Just use what works best for you.

No Stage Manager

M1 MBA. I just installed Ventura 13.0, and there is no Stage Manager available. No button in Control Center, the option to add to Menubar from System Settings does nothing, and the option for Desktop and Dock is grayed out.

If there is supposed to be an app in Application or Utilities, there isn't.

Any thoughts?

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