Apple brings laptop-like multitasking to the iPad with Stage Manager
Still falls short of the laptop experience, but is much improved over current iPad multitaskingBy Cal Jeffrey
Bottom line: Last month, an Apple iPad accessory patent revealed Cupertino's plans to expand the tablet's versatility by adapting it to something closer to a 2-in-1, like Microsoft's Surface line. Apple already has keyboards that somewhat fit this need, but the iPad's operating system has held it back due to its limited multitasking ability.
During WWDC 2022 on Monday, Apple gave us a preview of iPadOS 16, which addresses the iPad's multitasking — or lack thereof — with a new feature it calls Stage Manager. Now users can say goodbye to split-screen multitasking with just two apps and hello to up to eight apps running simultaneously.
It starts with Stage Manager on the iPad itself. Full-screen windows can now easily be resized by dragging the corner inward. Doing this creates a Mac-like desktop. "Mac-like" because you cannot place files on the desktop. However, you do get a similar dock to macOS for accessing your most used apps.
Furthermore, up to four windows can be resized and used together. Stage Manager will adjust the other apps' placement to optimize the workspace when users position or resize the active window. Additionally, off to the left side are four groupings. Each of these can also have up to four apps, essentially expanding your multitasking to up to 16 apps, although only four can run simultaneously while the rest are in standby mode.
The new iPad operating system has full external display support (up to 6K). Plugging into an additional monitor allows Stage Manager to handle another four apps for up to eight concurrently running applications. There are also five extra groupings on the external monitor organized by recency. Apps can be slid back and forth between displays, just like a traditional dual-monitor setup. Users can quickly share content from one app with another app running on the other monitor.
Unfortunately, Stage Manager is only compatible with the iPad Pro and iPad Air equipped with the M1 SoC. So for right now, only newer iPad owners get the advantage. However, it's not always best to be an early adopter. As time goes on, users will eventually upgrade, and the feature will likely have been improved and polished by that time.
Stage Manager is also coming to macOS Ventura, but without the processor limitation — at least Apple did not mention such a restriction in its press release. It works much the same way, although there are other ways to manage windows on a Mac that may be more favorable. I prefer BetterSnapTool, but I will undoubtedly give Stage Manager a go when it releases this fall alongside iOS 16 and iPadOS 16.