In fact, Stage Manager is awesome: Here’s why haters shouldn’t hate it

When Apple announced macOS Ventura at WWDC 2022 in June, its most visible update was Stage Manager, a new window management feature.

Like some of the other window management features offered by macOS, Stage Manager lets you clean up applications running on your desktop. It’s a handy little feature for those who appreciate organization and find convenience in order and will certainly be appreciated once it rolls out to all users this fall.

However, the announcement has caused discord among Mac users. Some find the feature confusing, especially when added alongside (rather than replacing) any of the other window management features offered by macOS, such as Mission Control, Spaces, and Split View. For me, however, Stage Manager is the window management feature that replaces the need for any of the others.

Stage Manager makes your Mac look like a Mac desktop

We’ve all seen the photos Apple uses when releasing macOS in its keynotes and on its website. Apps running on the desktop are neatly organized, with pleasing aspect ratios, size and overlap between the few apps running on the screen.

Stage Manager, like a false friend, tells you what you want to hear: “You are perfect, and your office too”.

However, we all know that the desktop that Apple shows us is not real.

It’s like looking at a staged apartment or house; it’s beautiful, but real houses don’t usually look like this. Once we start working on our Macs, apps quickly pile up everywhere and it starts to look more like a hoarder’s desk than anything else.

Mail running in Stage Manager on macOS Ventura

Mail running in Stage Manager on macOS Ventura (Image credit: Joe Wituschek/iMore)

While I’ve always tried to keep a tidy desktop, it was a process that required too much work – minimizing apps, spreading them across multiple desktops, and even using Split View – all in the name of trying to juggle between productivity and aesthetics at the same time.

Luckily, macOS Ventura’s Stage Manager is here to take what was previously impossible and make it a reality. It can take a cluttered desk and organize it in a visually soothing way, making you think you’re much more organized than you really are. It’s a joke of course – chaos during work is inevitable – but Stage Manager, like a false friend, tells you what you want to hear: “You are perfect, and your office too.”

Stage Manager is Stacks for apps

Do you remember Stacks? Probably not, but Apple hailed the feature when it first launched with Mac OS X Leopard. It organized the files in a folder in your dock. Then came Desktop Stacks with macOS High Sierra, which took all the files sitting on your desktop and organized them into neat little stacks organized by type, date, or Finder tags.

Desktop Stacks solved a major problem for many users who found themselves with dozens or even hundreds of files sitting on their desktop. Finding a single file required someone who was basically a speed runner in Where’s Waldo or serious help from Spotlight, Apple’s built-in search feature. Apple has thrown some smarts into desktop organization to make it easier to at least get to the rough stage of the file you were trying to track down without you needing to do anything. It also brought a lot more peace to your desk and made it more put together rather than a madman’s computer.

Scene Manager running on macOS Ventura

(Image credit: Joe Wituschek/iMore)

When I think of Stage Manager, I can’t help but make the comparison and think that the feature is just Desktop Stacks, but for apps. And that’s not a bad thing.

Applications, like files, can quickly clutter our desks. Apple’s other window management features, while offering productivity gains, never solved the appearance problem. I could use multiple desktops, but that just meant things would look like garbage on two desktops instead of one.

Stage Manager solves this visual problem while keeping things organized in a way that makes a lot of sense. Since I can group apps into their own stacks, I can organize my workflow to show the group of apps that I know are related and tend to need at the same time or for the same function. It allows me to keep my entire workflow at a glance rather than being buried under a mountain of other apps.

Can I still use multiple desktops, application shortcuts, and Split View? Sure. But I use them less and less.

This has been my favorite new Mac feature for years

I’m trying to think of another Mac feature that won my heart, like Stage Manager. Having a clutter-free desk brings a sense of focus and calm to my digital world that I’ve had to give up on my laptop for…forever.

If I really Come to think of it, I have to say that the only other “feature” that brings me Stage Manager-level joy is when Apple revamped macOS with Big Sur a few years ago. It’s certainly not perfect (I’m looking at you, Mac notifications with your little close button) but the Mac has needed a visual overhaul for years. The update made the Mac feel fresh and new, like buying a whole new computer without having to pay for it. Of course, if you want a brand new computer AND want to afford it, you can check out our list of the best MacBooks in 2022.

But, of course, Big Sur is a full version of the operating system rather than a single feature, so Stage Manager is kind of self-contained. My only complaint is that my work computer always has to run macOS Monterey, so I’m stuck without my beloved feature for eight hours a day. At the end of the workday, however, I am back to office bliss.


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Steven L. Nielsen