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 that macOS offers, Stage Manager allows you to clean up the apps running on your desktop. It's a handy little feature for those who value organization and find comfort in tidiness and will certainly be appreciated once it rolls out for all users this fall.
However, the announcement has been divisive among Mac users. Some find the feature confusing, especially when it is added alongside (rather than replacing) any of the other window management features that macOS offers like Mission Control, Spaces, and Split View. For me, though, Stage Manager is the window management feature that replaces the need for any of the others.
Stage Manager makes your Mac look like how a Mac desktop should look
We have all seen the photos that Apple uses when marketing macOS in its keynotes and on its website. The apps running on the desktop are perfectly organized, with pleasing aspect ratios, sizing, and overlap across the few apps running on the screen.
However, we all know that the desktop Apple shows us isn't real.
It's like looking at a staged apartment or home; it's beautiful, but real homes don't usually look like that. Once we start doing actual work on our Macs, the apps quickly pile up all over the place and it starts to look more like the desktop of a hoarder than anything.
As much as I've always attempted 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 productivity and aesthetics at the same time.
Thankfully, macOS Ventura's Stage Manager is here to take what used to be an impossibility and make it a reality. It can take a cluttered desktop and organize it in a way that is visually soothing, tricking you into believing you are much more organized than you actually are. It's of course a farce — chaos during work is inevitable — but Stage Manager, like a fake friend, tells you what you want to hear: "You're perfect, and so is your desktop."
Stage Manager is Stacks for apps
Remember Stacks? Probably not, but Apple hailed the feature when it originally launched with Mac OS X Leopard. It organized files into a folder in your dock. Then came Desktop Stacks with macOS High Sierra, which took all of the files sitting on your desktop and organized them into neat little piles organized by kind, date, or Finder tags.
Desktop Stacks solved a major problem for many users who found themselves with dozens, if not hundreds, of files sitting on their desktop. Finding a single file required someone who was basically a speed runner in Where's Waldo or some serious help from Spotlight, Apple's built-in search functionality. Apple brought some smarts to organizing the desktop to make it easier to at least get in the ballpark of the file you were trying to hunt down without you needing to do anything. It also brought a lot more peace to your desktop and made it look more put together rather than the computer of a lunatic.
When I think about Stage Manager, I can't help but make the comparison and feel that the feature is simply Desktop Stacks, but for apps. And that's not a bad thing.
Apps, just like files, can clutter up our desktops fast. Apple's other window management features, despite 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 that visual problem while also keeping things organized in a way that makes a lot of sense. Since I can group apps into their own piles, I can organize my workflow in ways that allow me to bring up the group of apps I know are related and that I tend to need at the same time or for the same function. It allows me to keep my entire workflow just a glance away rather than buried under a mountain of other apps.
Can I still use multiple desktops, app shortcuts, and Split View? Sure. But I'm finding myself using them less and less.
It's my favorite new Mac feature in years
I'm trying hard to think about another Mac feature that has won my heart over like Stage Manager has. Having a desktop free of clutter brings a sense of focus and calmness to my digital world that I have had to forgo on my laptop for... forever.
If I really thought about it, I'd have to say that the only other "feature" that brings me Stage Manager-level joy is when Apple redesigned macOS with Big Sur a few years ago. It's certainly not perfect (I'm looking at you, Mac notifications with your tiny close button) but the Mac had needed a visual overhaul for years. The update made the Mac feel fresh and new, like getting a brand new computer without having to pay for it. Of course, if you do want a brand new computer AND want to pay for it, you can check out our list of the best MacBooks in 2022.
But, of course, Big Sur is an entire version of the operating system rather than a single feature, so Stage Manager kind of stands alone. My only complaint is that my work computer still needs 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'm back to desktop bliss.
Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.
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