Stage Manager, introduced in macOS 13 Ventura, is a different way to manage windows on your Mac. One of Apple’s boldest software changes in 2022, Stage Manager has proved to be divisive, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out for yourself.
Stage Manager is off by default when you first reboot after installing macOS 13 Ventura. You’ll find the toggle for Stage Manager under Control Center, accessed via the macOS menu bar in the top-right corner of the screen. Click on “Stage Manager” to enable the feature.
The Stage Manager virtual shelf appears to the left or the right of the screen, depending on the location of your dock. Windows and apps are accessible with a click, enabling you to switch between individual apps and groups, with the ultimate goal of preventing your desktop from getting too cluttered.
If you’re keen to give the feature a fair shot, there are a few tips you should keep in mind for the best chance at success.
Switching between apps is a simple affair. You can click on a window (or group) on the left-hand side of the screen to switch to it or use the standard Command+Tab keyboard shortcut instead.
You can also use the same Mission Control keyboard and trackpad shortcut (swipe up using three or four fingers, depending on whether you use three-finger drag).
Don’t worry about losing desktop real estate due to the virtual shelf. If you drag an app into place over the virtual shelf, the overlay will automatically hide, allowing you to use the entire desktop.
You can also group windows to recall them both at the same time. To do so, click and drag an app in the Stage Manager virtual shelf overlay and drop it on your current workspace. These two windows will now be grouped. Add more windows to the group to recall them all at once.
It’s up to you how you group your apps, but we noticed some (namely Reminders) didn’t want to be grouped at all.
If you have multiple windows from the same app (for example, two Safari windows), you can group them together or independently in separate groups. Use the Command+Tilde (the squiggly icon button just below Esc on your keyboard) to switch between different windows of the same app.
By default, Stage Manager will hide your desktop icons. You can access the desktop in Stage Manager view by clicking anywhere on the desktop to focus on it. You can also customize this behavior under Settings > Desktop & Dock by clicking “Customize” next to Stage Manager.
You can also choose to toggle “Recent Apps,” which hides both recent apps and the virtual shelf overlay, or choose to show windows one at a time (which isn’t the best choice for multitasking).
Whether you’ll get much use out of Stage Manager depends on what sort of Mac user you are. The feature seems best suited to those who aren’t used to managing their windows manually using apps like Rectangle or Magnet. If you make heavy use of different desktops with Spaces, you might not see much value in the feature either.
In the end, we noticed two clear benefits. The first is grouping windows by usage, which is helpful if you have workflows that rely on two or more apps or multiple window layouts.
For example, you may want to use Notes to jot things down while browsing in Safari, keep apps like Teams and Slack together in one place, or use more than one Safari window at a time.
The second is for people who find it easy to “lose” windows. For example, you can group all your Finder windows so that you don’t waste time switching between Documents, Downloads, system folders, or project files.
App Exposé also does this (three or four-finger swipe down on the trackpad), but you still need to switch to Finder and then trigger it. So, technically, Stage Manager is faster.
Perhaps the most jarring thing about Stage Manager is getting used to the feature “stealing” focus. If you Command+Tab to a Finder group while browsing in Safari, your browsing session will disappear only to reappear when you switch back.
Newcomers who find the macOS desktop a bit cluttered and overwhelming might get along better than those who have developed their own ways of doing things. Many Mac users already use multiple desktops to organize their Mac, similarly to Stage Manager, by separating workflows and apps into spaces.
The feature may be better suited to multiple monitor setups, where switching desktops feels a little more redundant. Take some time to play with the feature and decide for yourself. But be aware you’ll probably need to give it more than five minutes after rebooting into macOS 13 to see the benefits.
Can’t find Stage Manager on your Mac? Grab macOS 13 Ventura and install it for free today. Alternatively, consider waiting to update if you’re worried about software incompatibilities and bugs.
Don’t forget you can also use Stage Manager on the iPad, which is where the feature will feel most at home in iPadOS 16.
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