Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Stage Manager in iPadOS 17 Beta

Federico Viticci:

Apple listened to feedback about Stage Manager and – at least so far – implemented the key improvements I wanted to see. I’ve been using Stage Manager on my iPad Pro since yesterday afternoon, and I even tested it on a portable external display that I brought with me for this trip. If this early, limited experience is of any indication, I think I’m going to be happy with Apple’s revised version of Stage Manager for iPad by the end of the summer. But then again, caution is necessary given how last year’s beta evolved over time.


Based on what I’ve seen so far, Stage Manager for iPad is still based on different size classes for apps, which means that when you resize a window, you’re effectively choosing from a list of invisible presets that control how small or big a window can be and how its contents are laid out. However, compared to iPadOS 16, it feels to me as if the process of resizing a window is smoother and more lenient than before. You still see a window “blink” as it gets resized, but I’m under the impression that there are more “intermediate steps” when it comes to the sizes you can choose from. I understand why resizing an iPad app cannot be as pixel-precise as resizing a Mac one, but as long as Apple figures out a system to make layouts more flexible given the limitations of iPadOS, I’m good with that.

There’s even better news on the window placement front: unlike the original Stage Manager, you can now almost freely place windows anywhere and make them overlap as much as you want if necessary. The “almost” part is necessary since I believe there is still a rail-based system underneath Stage Manager, but in iPadOS 17, it’s like those rails have gotten way denser than iPadOS 16, giving you a lot more options for placing a window somewhere and making it stay there.


Update (2023-06-23): Federico Viticci:

Stage Manager for iPadOS 17 also comes with a new ‘fast app pairing’ feature.

This is a new multitouch-based option to quickly pair an app with another app/set of apps.

Just hold down on a window, then tap apps in the dock or the left strip to quickly pair them with the app you’re holding.

Update (2023-07-26): Steve Troughton-Smith:

To say Stage Manager is ‘fixed’ in iOS 17 is to say the Butterfly Keyboard was ‘fixed’ in its first revision. They’ve patched it to make it just a little more tolerable (which should have shipped last year) but it still has all the fundamental problems it had in iPadOS 16. It’s still an alt-mode only available on some iPads, it conflicts with all the existing iPad UX, it has no APIs so apps can adapt better to it, and I still expect it to be abandoned and replaced with a do-over in a few years.

If you could imagine the bare minimum that could have been done to fix Stage Manager in iPadOS 16, this is less than that.

Federico Viticci:

I was pleased to see I’m not the only one who’s liking the new Stage Manager for iPadOS 17. Similarly, I’m not alone in thinking Apple should continue refining the iPad’s multitasking system and catching up with macOS.

Update (2023-08-30): Steve Troughton-Smith:

I have gone through iPadOS 17, and all my old posts about iPadOS 16, and collated a list of many of the things Stage Manager still gets wrong 👀 There’s definitely more to add, but this is why the two tiny changes to Stage Manager this year (tiling, and shift-clicking) don’t impress me.

The major change between Stage Manager now and this time last year is just how buggy and broken it was then. So much time was spent fixing its performance, but not design.

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The similarities between Stage Manager and the interface that was presented during the iGoggles presentation are striking. It seems like Apple is trying to introduce Mac and iPad users to the new three-dimensional interface before the launch of AR devices.

From what I understand the multitasking/expose view of Stage Manager is still broken and this still leaves it in an unusable place for me. In iPad OS 15 we got the ability to drag and drop windows around when using the multitasking expose view which dramatically improved multitasking for me. I hope we get something similar for Stage Manager but until we do I will likely continue to leave it turned off because easy window management is too important to me to want to lose this feature.

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