Spaces, Expose, Mission Control, Launchpad, three-finger plus thumb gestures, and other features have existed in macOS, but none have made arranging and working with multiple application windows as simple and controllable as it is in Windows. The new Stage Manager feature, which debuted with macOS Ventura, has the potential to change that. It also complements the underutilized macOS Dock (in comparison to Windows 10’s more functional Taskbar—sorry, Windows 11).
At this year’s WWDC, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, the amusing and likable Craig Federighi, pretty much admitted how bad multi-windowing is on the Mac. “The more you do, the more overwhelming it can be to have multiple windows open,” he explained. “We want to be able to switch between tasks as easily as you can in Microsoft Windows.” (As you may have guessed, the part in brackets is mine.)
I used to bore my Mac-obsessed coworkers by complaining about how, when you click on a program’s icon in the Dock, none of its windows appear on the screen. This drives me insane and is one of the reasons I can’t wait to get back to a Windows machine. It’s because of macOS’s document-centric design, which requires the OS to take over all program menus rather than allowing them to create their own (unless they don’t mind having two sets of menu options). Stage Manager assists in resolving this issue.
A stack of window thumbnails is displayed to the side of your main window by this feature. Aside from making switching between programs easier, these tiles also allow you to select which document open in the app to display on the desktop. Unfortunately, this requires cycling through the windows in the pile sequentially. The Windows Taskbar can display all open windows for an app, allowing you to switch to the desired one with a single click.
A problem that Stage Manager does not address, or does not address adequately for me, is arranging windows on your desktop for optimal access and usability. Windows 11 improved on the OS’s already excellent window-arrangement capabilities by introducing Snap Layouts, which make it simple to arrange multiple application windows in desktop-space-saving configurations. Another feature that macOS lacks is the ability to fill exactly half of the screen with an app window by dragging it against the side of the desktop. This is something I use on a daily basis, including right now, to transfer this text from Word to our content management system.
Stage Manager macOS multitasking can handle having two app windows open at the same time, but in all of the images I’ve seen, one window overlaps the other, so you don’t see both full windows at the same time. I like having the freedom to arrange the windows to my liking, and (another plus) Stage Manager allows you to call up multiple windows you’ve arranged in the same arrangement for later use.
Full-screen windows are another issue. macOS has two full-screen options: one that keeps the menu and one that creates a new virtual desktop for the window. Apps in Windows can take up the entire screen without the complexity of another virtual desktop. Similarly, Stage Manager is useless when you are running an app in full-screen mode (which is the best way to view complex media-editing apps like Photoshop or Final Cut). Instead, it determines the size of the window you’ve chosen from the side thumbnails.
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Stage Manager solves one of my major issues with macOS: displaying the desktop. It appears to be simple, and it is in Windows—just press Windows Key-D or move the cursor to the lower-right corner of the screen (if you have Desktop Peek enabled). In macOS, you can do something similar with a little more setup by using the Hot Corners feature. However, Stage Manager takes you to the desktop with a single tap on the desktop—a fantastic solution. It also allows you to drag a file from your desktop onto one of Stage Manager’s app stacks, which is very useful.
It remains to be seen whether Stage Manager will be enough of a departure for me to feel as though I can use macOS as efficiently as I can Windows. Although I understand that many people disagree, the new window-management tool appears to be a step in the right direction.