Thinking again about Stage Manager on iPad

The big reason I was eagerly awaiting Stage Manager wasn’t using it on the iPad’s screen: it was the promise of proper second-screen support. I have had a dream of using the iPad with a big monitor for a long time, and Stage Manager seemed to be the solution I have been waiting for.

Of course, we all know what happened next: Stage Manager was a buggy mess, and its external display support was the most buggy part of it. It worked, as long as you were prepared to have your applications crash every few minutes.

Sad to say, it’s not much better now. On the current developer release, external monitor support is back, but once again it’s buggy as hell. Stage Manager on the iPad’s main screen is working well enough to be usable, but forget about docking your device to a big display. Given the state of it, I suspect Apple is going to release it quite a bit later this year.

But here’s the thing: I’ve actually grown to like using Stage Manager on the iPad on its own. The “aha” moment was changing the display mode to “More space”, something that’s only possible on 12.9in iPads (and, I think, only on the M1 currently, although it’s intended to support older models too):

Changing Display Zoom to “More Space” makes a big different on iPad
Changing Display Zoom to “More Space” makes a big different on iPad

As the name suggests, this gives you more virtual space on screen by making the display work at its native resolution, without any scaling. Text on screen becomes smaller, but the flip side is that you have more space to work with.

And Stage Manager really likes having the extra space. Windows overlap less, making it easier to flip between open applications on stage. You can have bigger windows while also seeing more of the shelf at the side. It just feels more natural and less cramped than the default zoom.

All the criticisms of Stage Manager generally are still true (and if you want a good collection of them, it’s worth looking at Federico Viticci’s article). But “More Space” has made a big difference to me, and now I find that I have Stage Manager on almost all the time. Except, of course, if I want to plug the iPad into an external monitor. That, hopefully, will come.

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