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Posts tagged with "Stage Manager"

macOS Sonoma: The MacStories Review

In one sense, the story of this year’s macOS update is that there is no story, but that’s not exactly right. Instead, it’s a bunch of stories. It’s the tail end of the realignment of macOS with Apple’s other OSes that began with macOS Catalina in 2019. However, Sonoma is also part of a work-at-home story accelerated by COVID-19. The OS is also linked to the story of visionOS, only part of which has been revealed. Sonoma is a bundle of narrative threads built on the foundation of past releases, adding up to a collection of updates that will be less disruptive for most Mac users than recent macOS updates. Instead, Sonoma is packed with a variety of useful new features that help draw it closer to iPadOS and iOS than ever before, design enhancements, and a few disappointing omissions.

The timing for a more modest macOS update is right. In recent years, Mac users have had to adjust to substantial redesigns of everything from their favorite system apps to the Finder’s windows and toolbars. The changes were inescapable and necessary to harmonize the Mac with Apple’s other products, but also disruptive for some long-time users.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

With macOS Sonoma, the biggest design shifts seem to be behind us – at least for the time being. Interactive widgets on the desktop are a big change this year, but it’s not like macOS dumps a bunch of them on your desktop by default. If you never want to see a widget anywhere near your desktop, you don’t have to. Other than the subtle way the login screen has changed and the new screensavers and wallpapers that are available, the core macOS experience has barely changed.

Instead, this year’s update is primarily about refining and building upon the foundation of the past few years, coupled with a handful of more significant updates to system apps. So, while the marquee features and design changes may be less notable than in recent years, there is still a long list of new and refreshed items that touch nearly every aspect of the OS, so let’s dive in.

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More on iPadOS 17’s Stage Manager

As I always do every summer, I read other journalists’ opinions about the new versions of iOS and iPadOS after I’ve published my preview story. This week, as I’m catching up on my reading queue (yes, I’m still using the Reading List/Notes setup I described here), I was pleased to see I’m not the only one who’s liking the new Stage Manager for iPadOS 17. Similarly, I’m not alone in thinking Apple should continue refining the iPad’s multitasking system and catching up with macOS.

Here’s Jason Snell, writing last week at Six Colors:

Unfortunately, one of my most hoped-for features for Stage Manager didn’t make it into iPadOS 17: you can’t run the iPad on an external display with its internal screen shut off, as you can when a MacBook runs in lid-closed mode. Not only can the second screen be distracting, but there’s stuff Apple insists on displaying on the iPad screen, and sometimes apps get thrown over to the iPad screen when you don’t want them there.

I’ve been working with the fake clamshell mode I detailed on MacStories for the past few weeks. It’s doable, but some of the inherent limitations of this workaround are incredibly annoying. For instance: there’s no way to show Control Center on an external display (seriously). I want to believe Apple is working on a real clamshell mode for iPadOS 18.

David Pierce, writing at The Verge, has also some ideas for features still missing from Stage Manager:

But now Apple needs to make Stage Manager an actual iPad feature. It needs to integrate it with the other iPadOS navigational tools and windowing systems in a way that makes sense. Let me have widgets and apps together in a space! And please, please let me save a collection of apps with a name and then bring it up with a Spotlight search, please. It needs to take advantage of the tablet’s outrageous processing power and actually let you use more than four apps at a time. It needs, in short, to make Stage Manager feel like part of the iPad instead of a wholly separate device that just happens to live inside the same screen.

The more I look at macOS Sonoma, the more I wish I could see widgets from my iPad’s Home Screen underneath Stage Manager’s windows. That’s the kind of feature that would make a lot of sense on a bigger iPad Pro.

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iOS and iPadOS 17 After One Month: It’s All About Widgets, Apps, and Stage Manager

iOS and iPadOS 17.

iOS and iPadOS 17.

Apple is releasing the first public betas of iOS and iPadOS 17 today, and I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been using both of them on my primary devices since WWDC, and I’m very satisfied with the new features and improvements I’ve seen to date – especially on iPadOS. More importantly, both OSes are bringing back the same sense of fun and experimentation I felt three years ago with iOS 14.

I’ve already written about the improvements to Stage Manager on the iPad ahead of the public beta of iPadOS 17. Without repeating myself, I’m still surprised by the fact that Apple addressed my core complaints about Stage Manager a mere year after iPadOS 16. To describe my past year in iPad land as “turbulent” would be a euphemism; and yet, iPadOS 17’s improved Stage Manager not only fixes the essence of what was broken last year, but even eclipses, in my opinion, the Mac version of Stage Manager at this point.

I love using Stage Manager on my iPad now. There are still features missing from iPadOS 17 that won’t allow me to stop using my MacBook Air but, by and large, the enhancements in iPadOS 17 have allowed me to be an iPad-first user again. It feels good to write that. Plus, there are some surprises in iPadOS 17 that I wasn’t expecting that I’ll cover below.

iOS 17 is not a huge software update: there are dozens of quality-of-life features that I like and – best of all – terrific updates on the widget front. A good way to sum up Apple’s software strategy this year is the following: widgets are everywhere now (including the Watch), they’re interactive (finally), and they’re likely pointing at new hardware on the horizon (you know). As someone who’s been wishing for widget interactivity since the days of iOS 14, I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it’s been to see third-party developers come up with wild ideas for what effectively feel like mini-apps on the Home Screen.

I’m equally impressed by the work Apple has put into some of its built-in apps this year with features that I’ve always wanted and never thought the company would build. You can create internal links to other notes in the Notes app. Reminders has a column view. Podcasts has a proper queue. Even Reading List – of all features – has been updated this year. In using iOS 17, I sometimes get the sense that Apple went through popular wish lists from the community and decided to add all the top requests in a single release.

To quote my friend Stephen Hackett: the vibe is good this year, and it applies to software as well. Let me tell you about some of my favorite aspects of iOS and iPadOS 17 from the past month.

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With iPadOS 17, Stage Manager Is (Finally) Moving in the Right Direction

Stage Manager on iPadOS 17 beta 1.

Stage Manager on iPadOS 17 beta 1.

I’m in Cupertino for WWDC this week, and after yesterday’s whirlwind of announcements and surprises, I had some time to sit down with my 12.9” iPad Pro, install iPadOS 17 beta 1 on it, and try the improved version of Stage Manager. As you know, I have a…complicated history with the iPad’s latest multitasking system. Before coming here, I was worried Stage Manager would be left untouched without any updates for at least another year.

I’ll cut to the chase: Apple listened to feedback about Stage Manager and – at least so far – implemented the key improvements I wanted to see. I’ve been using Stage Manager on my iPad Pro since yesterday afternoon, and I even tested it on a portable external display that I brought with me for this trip. If this early, limited experience is of any indication, I think I’m going to be happy with Apple’s revised version of Stage Manager for iPad by the end of the summer. But then again, caution is necessary given how last year’s beta evolved over time.

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iPadOS 16.2 and Stage Manager for External Displays: Work in Progress, But Worth the Wait

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Ever since I last wrote about iPadOS 16, I have continued using Stage Manager on my iPad Pro. As I wrote in October, I like the idea behind Stage Manager more than its implementation. Despite the flawed design of its multitasking concepts and bugs I still encounter on a daily basis, it’s undeniable that Stage Manager lets me get more things done on my iPad by virtue of its concurrent app windows.

With today’s release of iPadOS 16.2, the idea behind Stage Manager achieves the full vision first presented in June, while its design and technical implementation remain stuck in an unpolished, half-baked state. Which is to say: conceptually, I love that Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2 allows me to extend my iPad to an external display and put four additional windows on it; I’ve waited years for this feature, and it’s finally here. Technically speaking, however, the performance of this mode leaves a lot to be desired, with frequent crashes on my iPad Pro and an oft-confusing design that, I will reiterate, needs a rethinking.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve learned to live with Stage Manager, accept its quirks, and use what’s good about it to my advantage. As I recently wrote for Club MacStories members, I’ve put my money where my mouth is: I’ve gone all-in with Stage Manager on my iPad Pro and completely rebuilt my work setup around the M2 iPad Pro and Apple Studio Display, using Universal Control to seamlessly control iPadOS from a nearby Mac mini. (You can read the full story here.) After all, no other device in Apple’s ecosystem can effortlessly turn from a tablet into a laptop and into a desktop workstation like the iPad Pro can.

I’ve been working toward this vision for iPad modularity and contextual computing for the past several years. So now that Stage Manager has unlocked the final piece of the puzzle with external display integration, how good is it in practice?

And more importantly: was it worth the wait?

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Stage Manager in iPadOS 16: At the Intersection of Bugs, Missing Features, and Flawed Design

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

This article wasn’t supposed to go like this.

iPadOS 16 is launching to the public today, and it carries a lot of expectations on its shoulders: for the first time since the introduction of the original iPad in 2010, Apple is embracing a Mac-like windowing system that lets you use up to four windows at the same time on the iPad’s screen. You can even resize them and make them overlap. If you’ve been following the evolution of the iPad for a while, you know that’s very unusual.

But the reason this story was meant to be different isn’t to be found in Apple’s design philosophy for iPadOS 16. Typically, MacStories readers would expect a full-blown ‘The MacStories Review’ to go alongside a new version of iPadOS. That’s what I’ve been doing for over seven years at this point, and I don’t like breaking my writing patterns. When something works, I want to keep writing. That’s precisely why I had to stop writing about iPadOS earlier in the summer and until last week.

Stage Manager, the marquee addition to iPadOS that lets you multitask with floating windows, started crashing on my M1 iPad Pro in mid-July and it was only fixed in early October. When I say “crashing”, I mean I couldn’t go for longer than 10 minutes without iPadOS kicking me back to my Lock Screen and resetting my workspaces. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. For nearly two months, I couldn’t type with Apple’s Magic Keyboard or use keyboard shortcuts when Stage Manager was active. Before it was pulled by Apple and delayed to a future release, external display support in Stage Manager was impossible to rely on for production work. The list goes on and on and on.

Normally, I would use the introduction of my iOS and iPadOS reviews to tell you how I’ve been living and working with the new operating system every day for the past three months. I’ve always tried to publish annual OS reviews that are informed by practical, consistent usage of a new operating system which, I hope, has led to highly opinionated, well-researched stories that can stand the test of time. That kind of story hasn’t been possible for me to produce with iPadOS 16 yet.

Effectively, I’ve only been able to sort-of use iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager on my M1 iPad Pro again for the past two weeks. Before that, it’s not that I didn’t want to use iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager because I hate progress; I literally couldn’t unless I was okay with my iPad crashing every 10 minutes. So, at some point over the summer, I made the call to revert to Split View and Slide Over – which are still the iPad’s default multitasking mode in iPadOS 16 – and I’d check back in on Stage Manager on each beta of iPadOS 16. It was only around two weeks ago that, despite some lingering bugs I’ll cover later, I was able to finally leave Stage Manager enabled and go back to where I was when I published my iPadOS 16 first impressions article in July.

Think about my position this way: there’s a hole from early August to early October in my typical “reviewer summer” during which I couldn’t use the biggest addition to iPadOS 16 at all. The fact that Apple delayed, slimmed down, and kept iterating on Stage Manager until the very last minute seems to suggest I wasn’t the only one desperately trying to make it work.

I started using iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager again two weeks ago; what kind of “review” should this be?

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TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino Interviews Craig Federighi About Stage Manager

Stage Manager is a very different approach to multitasking on the iPad and Mac for different reasons. TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino explored the design choices made by Apple on both platforms in an interview with Craig Federighi, the company’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering.

As Panzarino explains, Stage Manager feels very iPad-centric, but Federighi says it’s the result of the Mac and iPad teams meeting in the middle after developing similar approaches to a more streamlined version of multitasking:

“There were many of us who use the Mac every day who really wanted this kind of focused experience that gave us that balance. So we were on the Mac side, picking this idea up and saying we think that’s in reach, we want to make this happen. And separately on the iPad side we were thinking about [it]. And believe it or not two independent teams who are brainstorming and designing converge on almost the identical idea.”

In response to why Stage Manager is only supported by M1 iPads, Federighi pointed to memory, storage, and graphics as factors:

“It’s only the M1 iPads that combined the high DRAM capacity with very high capacity, high performance NAND that allows our virtual memory swap to be super fast,” Federighi says. “Now that we’re letting you have up to four apps on a panel plus another four – up to eight apps to be instantaneously responsive and have plenty of memory, we just don’t have that ability on the other systems.”

It was not purely the availability of memory that led Apple to limit Stage Manager to M1 iPads though.  

“We also view stage manager as a total experience that involves external display conductivity. And the IO on the M1 supports connectivity that our previous iPads don’t, it can drive 4k, 5k, 6k displays, it can drive them at scaled resolutions. We can’t do that on other iPads.”

There’s no doubt that Stage Manager takes some getting used to, and as Federighi acknowledges in the interview, it’s not finished, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. Stage Manager has the potential to make the iPad a more productive device while serving as a bridge for users coming to the Mac from the iPad. That seems to be what Apple is going for, and with some refinements, and although the feature won’t be to everyone’s tastes, I think it could be a great solution for a lot of iPad and Mac users.

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