Multitasking and working with multiple apps and files at once has become routine on the Mac, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Since Apple is always working on ways to make browsing on the Mac more efficient, macOS Ventura introduces Stage Manager, which organizes the open windows on your Mac to help you find the one you need faster.
It may not be necessary, but after only a few minutes with Stage Manager, I’m sure it will help make using Mac more efficient. Here’s why.
Mission control is good, up to a point
Apple already has an app called Mission Control for window hunting. But it’s not an organizer per se, it’s just a way to see all your windows at once and find the one you want. It’s fine once in a while, but during serious work sessions, dozens and dozens of windows can be opened, turning Mission Control into a macOS version of Where’s Waldo. There are also spaces in Mission Control, which create additional workspaces on the desktop, but it’s still not ideal.
Stage Manager is a better manager
Stage Manager provides organizational elements that Mission Control lacks. Windows are sorted by individual application as thumbnails on the left side of the screen, and clicking on the thumbnail opens the window on the screen. If multiple windows of an application are open, they appear as stacked thumbnails and you keep clicking until the window you want appears.
Even better, you can create groups of windows that go together for your workflow. For example, if you’re writing a research paper, you can open the Pages, Safari, Dictionary, and Notes apps, and you can group them by dragging each thumbnail to the center of the screen. When all the relevant windows are on screen, just click on one of the thumbnails and Stage Manager automatically creates the group. Then when you click on the group thumbnail, those application windows appear on the screen and all other windows are hidden.
During Apple’s demo of Stage Manager, Apple SVP Craig Federighi showed the default setting to “Show Recent Apps”, which places a constant row of thumbnails on the left side of the screen, a visual element that some may consider as additional screen clutter.
Stage Manager also has a “Hide recent apps” option that you can set in the Stage Manager Control Center module. This option hides Stage Manager icons, like how the Dock can be set to hide. To bring up Stage Manager, move the pointer to the left edge of the screen. If you’ve configured the Dock to appear on the left side, Stage Manager appears below the Dock, with thumbnails large enough to access.
This organization is a big improvement over Mission Control because there’s no more time and energy wasted looking for a window. Mission Control isn’t obsolete – it’s still handy when there are a small number of open windows. But Stage Manager is better when you’re working on big projects or you’re not one to be aware of window management.
Quirks and limitations
When Stage Manager is on, everything on the desktop is hidden, but you can still access your files by clicking anywhere on the screen. The open application moves to the row of Stage Manager tiles, the Finder takes over, and whatever was on the desktop reappears.
However, there’s a quirk that happens when you don’t have any apps open and Stage Manager is enabled: there’s still nothing visible on the desktop. To see the items on your desktop, you need to click on the desktop. (Clicking a second time again hides your desktop icons.) Opening a desktop item (a storage device icon, file, etc.) opens it in the center of the screen and hides the other parts of the office.
To avoid this, you can disable Stage Manager. You can also decide to turn it off when you only use a few apps at a time. But that means developing a new habit of turning Stage Manager on and off as needed, and some might find that too disruptive.
Some of Stage Manager’s limitations include:
It displays a maximum of five thumbnails, determined by the last one used.
Thumbnails cannot be rearranged or resized.
No options are available if you right-click on a thumbnail. This can be handy if, for example, Safari has several windows open and you want to close the top one.
Applications cannot be closed via a Stage Manager tile.
These limitations, however, are more a matter of convenience than obstacles that prevent Stage Manager from being useful.
You don’t need to use Stage Manager, but you probably will
Stage Manager is an option in Control Center, so if you don’t like it or don’t feel like using it, you can quickly turn it off. No one is forced to use it, so if you don’t want to change the way you do things, you don’t have to. You should definitely give it a try though. And since it’s a beta version, it could become even more useful with some tweaks and changes.
I already love Stage Manager and although I’ll have to adapt to the way the desktop is managed, I can say it’s going to save me a lot of hassle when using my Mac.