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Issue #115: Stage Manager burnout


It certainly feels like an never-ending story, doesn’t it? I’m talking about the much discussed, and lauded, Stage Manager feature. Burnout is real, for me, when it comes to this feature, so let’s talk a bit about that-

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Stage Manager burnout

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I’ve spent the day working in Stage Manager on a Mac. It’s a better experience than on iPadOS, with a lot less weirdness in terms of window sizes, and none of the forced snapping that’s so apparent on smaller iPads, like the 11″ iPad Pro or the fifth generation iPad Air. I was curious to see if the problem with Stage Manager was the feature itself, or rather, the concept, or if it was inherited to iPadOS.

I’m here to tell you that I’m now officially suffering from Stage Manager burnout.

Let’s start with the Mac for once. Apple recently released a support video detailing how you enable and use Stage Manager on macOS. It’s a nice video, clear and concise, but it also says a lot that they felt the need to explain everything in such detail. Click here, drag there – these are not instructions that should be needed to such an extent.

My initial reaction to Stage Manager on the Mac, running on the XDR Display, was that hey, it’s somewhat pleasant. And it does make more sense on a larger screen, grouping windows together like that. The concept, however, isn’t new for Mac users. Spaces has been on macOS for years and years, and while you can’t see what’s in your other Spaces at a glance, I’d say it’s a superior way to group app windows together. Then again, I don’t know many people who use Spaces, so the need for a new concept, of something that lets what you’re working on take the stage, as it were, might not be so far-fetched.

Except, you know, you can just minimize or even close the apps you’re not using. Why group them, and add new ways to manage what goes where, when window management is something that Mac users has been dealing with since, well, ever? Is it a way to remove the gap between macOS and iPadOS, for easier transition between the two? Maybe, I argued as much on Twitter the other day. Only Apple knows what their plans are.

I needed to send a couple of images during the day, screenshots with markup. Those end up on the Desktop, which you can easily get to by clicking outside the app window in focus in Stage Manager. The problem is, that hides all windows, so to send said file through drag and drop (rather than browsing for it), I had to drag it to the app in the drawer on the side, wait for it to flicker and open, before being able to drop it in Messages. Not only did I find it cumbersome, it took a lot longer than it would have had I not used Stage Manager.

Which brings me to Stage Manager on iPadOS. It feels even less done after having used Stage Manager on macOS. The four app per app stack limitation, for example, feels silly – there’s plenty of power in the M1 and M2 chips to handle more windows. In fact, the whole Stage Manager experience not only feels dumbed down, but it’s in such a bad state compared to macOS. I’m not going to list all that’s wrong with Stage Manager on iPadOS, that’s been done so many times. We’re all getting bored with hearing about apps opening in the wrong place and in weird sizes. I will, however, tell you that there’s not much immediate improvement in the second iPadOS 16.2 beta, either.

It’s gone so far that I’ve turned off Stage Manager on my 11″ iPad Pro, enabling it only on the 12.9″ iPad Pro that runs the iPadOS 16.2 beta. It’s a slightly better experience there, but it’s more due to the larger screen, and external monitor support (which is stilly buggy), than Stage Manager actually feeling like a good idea.

I’m torn. Stage Manager could be a great feature, and it does indeed bring iPadOS closer to macOS, which I can see the benefits of, but I’m definitely experiencing Stage Manager burnout. I’m so tired of the inconsistencies on iPadOS, and on macOS it just makes little sense to someone who, you know, can manage app windows just fine.

So, here I am, taking a break from Stage Manager on my primary iPad. Maybe you should too?

β€” Thord D. Hedengren βš‘