I have turned on Stage Manager on my iPad Pro 12.9 for a few days without interruptions. My initial thoughts when it’s just released was not very positive. It felt like too much trouble for too little gain. But I decided I should give it a fair chance before dismissing it entirely. I just used Stage Manager to write my thesis for an entire day. Here are some thoughts as of iPadOS 16 beta 6.
Stage Manager does bring some compelling advantages over the Split View multi-tasking paradigm.
- It makes every app device and orientation independent. All apps are launched into windows of sizes the app can support. Those iPhone only apps don’t feel like second class citizens anymore. Portrait or landscape only apps are no longer bounded to the actual device orientation. In addition, those old apps that are not optimised for the Home Bar can now be forced into fullscreen without black borders.
- It makes background tasks possible, albeit limited to three apps confined on a single Stage. For example, I can now download a video with
yt-dlpin a-Shell in the background by shoving its window behind. It’s also possible to run a web server in a similar fashion without it being terminated quickly.
- It is now possible to vertically split the screen into two fairly usable areas for two different apps in portrait orientation. This requires the Dock to be turned off. For example, I could read a PDF documen in GoodReader on the top half and take notes with Apple Pencil in GoodNotes. I prefer this layout to the horizontal split in Split View. Previously this is only possible with apps like LiquidText where I have to use a single app to read and write. But it is almost impossible to find the perfect app for both writing and reading.
- Almost all apps work in Stage Manager without the developers specifically optimising for it. It took a significant amount of time for developers to adopt Split View. But it will not be a problem for Stage Manager.
- It has full external display support. Although it makes sense, the fact that this requires both a mouse and a keyboard attached makes the experience very inconsistent.
It brings some difficulties as well.
- There is no access to Slide Over. I always put a few highly frequently used utility apps in Slide Over, e.g., DEVONthink, KeePassium, and Surge. Without Slide Over it becomes significantly more cumbersome to have quick access to a few apps. I think it is technically possible to retain Slide Over access in Stage Manager.
- There is no access to the Side Bar in portrait orientation. Although I turn it off anyway, it would be great if there is a way to summon it temporarily.
- It is difficult to move windows between Stages. Currently I need to drag the app icon into a new Stage. But I always feel confused to if this would move over an existing window, or make a new window when the app supports multi-window. It would be much better if windows could be dragged over Stages in App Switcher.
- The frequent flickering during window resizing is really disturbing. I cannot be sure if this is a design choice or a bug. But I hope Apple would cover windows up with a blur to hide the flickering in later builds.
Currently Stage Manager is still quite buggy.
- It is almost impossible to predict which corner the app window drag target would be.
- The scrolling performance is terrible in App Switcher.
- When the Dock is turned off, the Status Bar is often fully hidden when an app is zoomed in fullscreen.
- Apps that only support fullscreen are often squashed together with its content, and often doesn’t rotate properly with device orientation.
- A lot of animation quirks and inconsistencies.