So, I’ve been using iPadOS 16 for a couple of months now and I have some feelings on Stage Manager on the 11” iPad Pro. Its certainly an interesting experience and like the Safari tabs from last year I think it does take a little getting used to. It forces you to rethink how you use the iPad, but I think in a good way. I have an 11” iPad Pro to the interface is admittedly a little cramped, but I do find that using the “Display more Content” option that it becomes much easier to use. I also find automatically hiding the dock at the bottom to be useful. You do have to trust the iPad to arrange the windows for you like you do with the traditional slide over or split-view, but it works for me. I find that I only really use Stage Manager when I have a keyboard and pointing device attached…like the Magic Keyboard and when I want to use the iPad as just a tablet, I simply toggle off Stage Manager. I do hope in future versions of iPadOS that they give the iPad the ability to automatically enable Stage Manager when you have a keyboard and pointing device available.
I think that Stage Manager is probably going to be quite divisive, but what change to iPadOS isn’t? There are some people who want the iPad to remain simply an iPad, a tablet with one, maybe two apps at a time. There are others who want the iPad to be more like the Mac with multiple ports, floating windows, side loading applications, etc. As an iPad user from day one, I think that Stage Manager strikes a nice balance. Its an optional mode that a normal user will not just stumble upon unless they go looking and for a pro user its a quick swipe and tap away. Stage Manager will probably make those who want the iPad Pro to run MacOS angry because you do have to rely on the iPad’s windowing system to arrange the windows for you. I think the feature works well enough, especially since a modern iPadOS app will scale back and forth better between a full-screen, split-screen, and phone-screen sized view better than a Mac app, but there is a bit of a loss of control that will likely drive some people nutty. I like Stage Manager because it does a good job at helping me arrange work spaces. As I write this blog post, I have Pages open in its own space, but I can easily swap over to a space with my messaging clients…iMessage, Telegram, and Twitter all in one space. Fantastical and Apple Mail both get full-screen experiences as well because they are triple column applications, but its very easy to drag in an application into the space of another application and either have them overlap or simply drag and resize them until they’re side-by-side. The thing that people get wrong about Stage Manager I’ve seen is most think that the overlapping and floating windows are the point. They’re nice of course and are a cool demo, but if you simply trust the Stage Manager windowing interface to suggest layouts to you…even if they mimic the traditional side-by-side views of the traditional iPad multitasking is where the whole concept really signs.
Think less of Stage Manager as turning the iPad into a Mac and more of it helping you to organize your apps into groups automatically. Once I realized that and also saw it running on a coworker’s Mac, Stage Manager made a lot more sense to me. It doesn’t replace the iPad’s natural way of managing applications, but rather is just another tool like Expose on the Mac or Launchpad for the iPad to help you arrange your workspace in a way that makes logical sense to you. Can you use an iPad going forward without Stage Manager? Of course! It will work fantastic just like the iPad always has, but if you want the iPad to have a little more of a Mac-like feel like retaining the strengths of the iPad app ecosystem like the free forming apps and adjust back and forth based off your screen size, then I think you will happy with it. Overall, I think its an exciting 1.0 and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves as time goes on. I’m also looking forward to multi-monitor mode that will be coming down the road. I think particularly for smaller iPads like mine it will definitely unlock many new usage cases that we never expected from the iPad just a couple of years ago.