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I tried Stage Manager on my Mac and now I don’t want to go back

Of all the new MacOS Ventura features announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Stage Manager was one of the most intriguing. I’ve been playing with it since the show, and it feels like it could change the way I work on my Mac forever.

First a short explanation. Stage Manager is basically a window management tool. When activated, your open windows will appear on the left side of your Mac’s screen and you can click to quickly switch between them.

Stage manager in macOS Ventura.

But its real strength lies in its ability to group windows together. When you do, you can switch between full app settings in an instant. You can also divide an app’s open windows into two groups, meaning you can have one Safari window in one group and a second one in another.

There is enormous potential in this. You can set up a group of work-related apps — for example, Pages, Numbers, a time-tracking app — then switch to a range of leisure or gaming apps with a single click when the clock strikes 5 p.m.

Rather than scrolling through tons of app windows cluttering your desktop and trying to sort the relevant from the irrelevant, Stage Manager makes it a breeze and can help you be more productive at the same time.

Can’t you just use virtual desktops?

Mission Control lists a user's open apps in macOS Ventura.

But is Stage Manager really necessary? After all, macOS already has a virtual desktop system called Spaces. This allows you to place a number of open apps on one version of your desktop, and with a quick swipe or keyboard shortcut you can switch to another version of the same desktop with several apps open. A lot of people already use it for the same tasks that Stage Manager seems to be for, so why bother with Stage Manager at all?

At this stage, it seems that Apple sees Stage Manager and Spaces as working together, not competitors. If you are using multiple spaces and have also enabled Stage Manager, each space will have its own list of Stage Manager apps and groups. In other words, it seems Apple’s intent is for you to use both at the same time.

Stage Manager also has its own advantages. While it lets you browse between entire groups of apps at once, it’s also more granular than that, as you can use it to switch between individual apps and windows in a visual way. Spaces, on the other hand, are something on a higher level, allowing you to move between entire workspaces at once. With Stage Manager, you can switch between workspaces or just between apps. It is more flexible and adaptable.

But right now there is a lot of overlap between the two. If you’re currently using Spaces to organize your workspaces and switch from one set of apps to another, Stage Manager may not seem all that exciting to you.

It’s still early

Stage Manager with three apps in a group in macOS Ventura.

Of course, since MacOS Ventura is still an early beta, Stage Manager isn’t without its problems. It’s still very buggy and often does strange and unexpected things, but that’s probably to be expected at this point.

For starters, it’s inconvenient to toggle Stage Manager on and off. At this point, you need to open Control Center and click the Stage Manager button to get started. Closing Stage Manager is even slower: click Control Center, click Stage Manager, then click the toggle to turn it off. There’s no Stage Manager keyboard shortcut or trackpad gesture, and since this is something that could be central to how you use MacOS, that needs to change.

Still, none of these issues really bother me because Stage Manager feels so promising. Yes, it is raw and unpolished. But it feels surprisingly natural and fluid to use, even in its current raw state. It makes me feel like I’ve seen the future of how I’m going to use my Mac.

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