Stage Manager on Mac = Spaces with complications

After finally getting enough information on my critical software’s compatibility (what is it with bigger vendors just not saying?) I took the plunge today and upgraded to Ventura.

I’ve had about half an hour of playing with Stage Manager and come to the conclusion that it is functionally identical to Spaces but with added restrictions/conflicts.

  • To turn on Stage Manager you cannot have your Spaces linked on multiple screens. Arguably, Stage Manager diminishes (or even removes) the need for Spaces. Unfortunately, having linked Spaces is, I think, the only way to banish the menu bar from non-primary displays.
  • If you have your Dock on the left, Stage Manager thumbnails appear on the right. Over the top of your Desktop file icons. If you like to auto-hide your dock on the left or right, getting to your files will involve fighting with either the Dock or Stage Manager.
  • There are easy gestures and keyboard shortcuts to switch Spaces, so you don’t really need to be able to see the off-screen Spaces; they’re super quick to shuffle through if you don’t remember where things are.
  • There are no gestures or keyboard shortcuts to switch Stages; you have to look for the (fairly small) thumbnail of the Stage you want and click on it. If your current Stage has a window that covers the same edge of the screen as the Thumbnails, they are not visible until you move the mouse pointer near the edge, then they pop out, but in a different style — 2D instead of 3D. This makes interacting with window contents on the edge of the display a little hazardous (as has always been the case with auto-hiding the Dock).
  • You can, however, use the Mission Control gesture like before and see all of the windows open on all of the Stages on the current Space. Picking one of the windows opens that Stage. Which kinda removes the need for the Stage thumbnails turning the feature into simple window groups… which you can achieve already with Spaces.

It may be the way you use your Mac does not conflict like I had. You may have your dock on the bottom and not use files on the Desktop (really?). For me to use Stage Manager means a complete rethink of where stuff is.

I expect the novelty will wear off soon and I will just switch back to my old ways. Some podcaster, probably Siracusa, said that the Mac is overburdened with ways to manage windows. I thought at the time this was a good thing, but the myriad ways they conflict have changed my mind.


They can, indeed overlap in some ways and Spaces has the advantage of being far more integrated into existing workflows and apps, thus all the advantages above mentioned.

However, I think there are some differences considering the paradigm that inspires these features. Their “defaults”.

  • Stage Manager defaults to App separation (every time you open an App, you create a new group).

  • Spaces defaults to App unification (every App opens in the current space).

Both can make the opposite of their defaults, i.e group or separate Apps, but you must make it manually (or set a discretionary rule in the configuration).

  • In Stage Manager to make apps group, one must manually drag the window from the Cast (preview) to the current Set

  • In Spaces, to separate an App from its current Space, one must create a new Space (or use an existing one) and move the desired app there either via drag and drop or a keyboard shortcut (third party app may be required, I, for one, use Swish and a Karabiner Elements simlayer for that).

I’ve wrote about this a while ago here.

To sum up, it’s all about their defaults: while Spaces default to task/apps combination, Stage Manager changes the game by defaulting to task/apps separation.

I expect some of the gaps to be filled in coming months by third party software and in future macOS releases.

But even if they do: Spaces and Stage Manager were born from different philosophies on how to group/separate apps.


I admit I used Stage Manager on a Mac and iPad for a day, then went back to my old ways. I’m an experienced users and certainly on the Mac it didn’t add anything for me, and on the iPad it was a meh experience. Not the complete windows management solution I was hoping for.

More troublesome is that nothing about it is intuitive. It’s all very anti-Apple. I mostly played with it to see if my wife, who loves her iPad but is, shall we say, technologically challenged, would benefit from it. If there were at least some kind of “tour” to help users the first time around but at this point in don’t see how I could expose her to this thing.


I have an 11” iPad and a 13” MBA and SM doesn’t offer me anything worth giving up any screen real estate. It’s just an optional that some may find useful. And perhaps a little eye candy, like Flip 3D, for the marketing department.

I’ll leave it turned off. But thanks to Apple for the improvements they made to the Files app.

I don’t see stage manager as being anything like spaces (isn’t it called mission control now?). Stage manager is more like a restricted windowing system where macOS is trying to reduce window clutter by tucking apps in the side of the screen. Mission Control is more like a power user feature, where you want to take control over your window management and create window layouts for different tasks and be able to hide them away.

Mission Control also allows you to see all of your open windows with a single gesture (or keyboard shortcut), I can’t find an equivalent for stage manager.

As part of my experimenting with minimization, I have the menu bar and dock auto-hiding on all displays. In Sys Prefs:

BTW, just tried Stage Manager with my MacBook connected to the Studio display, it’s impossible to use! You cannot have more than one window on a stage. Every time I try to bring another window from the shelf, it sticks it on the laptop display, instead of on the bigger studio display.

Great insight. I had not considered this aspect.

It doesn’t change my view of the conflicts I’m getting, mind you. I’ve switched back to linked Spaces again. The biggest blocker for me is the right-side feature (Stages or Dock) conflicting with files on the desktop. A bottom dock is a no go for me because my Studio Display is above my laptop display. (OK, I might be convinced to shut the lid, but then I would be wasting Touch ID and the TouchBar — yes I use it regularly.) Without using bottom Dock, something is gonna fight me for access to those files unless it’s the dock and does not auto-hide, which would lose me (a little) space for little benefit as about the only time I use the dock is occasionally for access to the Trash.

On the Mac you don’t have to lose the real estate. I was surprised by this. You can drag a window to be the full with of the screen, but that causes the Stage thumbnails to disappear until you hover near the edge. It’s pretty much the same as the auto-hiding Dock in this sense. The downside to this, though, is you end up with a somewhat different interaction model depending on whether you do this at any given time.

I see them as organisationally equivalent. A Space has a collection of windows in a particular layout. So does a Stage. The only difference is you have to swipe/key across the Spaces one at a time (I think) with no preview. In the end… just collections of windows. In fact, you could actually describe Stage Manager as “Spaces now has always-on previews”. Except when you make your window obscure them.

I want the menu bar visible all of the time on my Studio Display but not on my laptop display. Although I have a number of interactions there, I have more (by space) information items. I can see my Magic Trackpad/Keyboard/Mouse battery levels, CPU/disk/network stats, time to next break, current date and time, and water intake status.

I must admit I didn’t try interacting with both screens. I basically use my Studio Display for “everything” and the laptop display is a “holding space” for a few things, when required. E.g. if I am copying a large amount of files, I’ll drag the progress window down there. When I’m working I have Teams down there.

I’ve been playing with Stage Manager for a while and, generally, like what I see. However, I just ran into something today that I don’t know how to address. I have 1 app (an Apple Music controller - Music Remote by Mario Guzman) that I’d like to have appear on all desktops. Is there any way to do that for a specific app?


I don’t think that’s possible @tonycr. There is very little you can customise about Stage Manager as far as I can tell.

Meanwhile, I have been convinced to give it another go. I’m starting by looking past the issues I described above, and now I find behaviours that aren’t issues as such, but are less than ideal.

  • I suspect those who designed it use only a single screen. If I’m not currently using the app Y on screen B, I prefer to see my wallpaper (one of my own photos). I can do this by minimising the currently shown app, which puts it in the pile list. However, quitting the app X on screen A will flip open the app Y on screen B if it was the last one used. Well, yes, it was the last one I used but that use was only minimising it because I’m not using it! This is equivalent, in my mind, to Mail opening another email when I close or delete one.
  • It’s not designed for transient windows. I had a Finder window open, in which were a selection of zip files. I selected those zip files and pressed ⌘↓ to uncompress them. The finder window whisked away to the Stage list to be replaced by the tiny unzip progress window, which was then quickly whisked away to be replaced again by the Finder window. Talk about whiplash!
  • It’s not designed for pop-ups either. Same deal, but with a window you need to interact with. Too bad if you need to see the original window at the same time.
1 Like

I agree. I think there are some aspects of Stage Manager that will not allow certain things to work as we might like. Generally, though, I like it and I’ll probably stay with it. I was an avid user of TotalSpaces until it no longer would play with the Mac (I don’t remember if it was a particular OS or if it was the M1 that broke it). SM seems to fill some of that gap. I assume, like most Apple software, that it’s a work in progress and they will be adding these features as time goes on.

1 Like