With the release of iPadOS 16, even in its current beta version, Apple has completely changed the way I use mine iPad Pro. After years of ranting about the lack of a better multitasking interface and true external monitor support, Apple has finally added both features to select iPads through a feature called Stage Manager.
However, Stage Manager is an optional feature. It’s something you have to look for and then specifically turn on. But when it’s enabled, you can have up to four apps running on the iPad screen at once — each one can be moved around the screen and resized, just like on a Mac.
And when you connect your iPad to an external monitor, you get a second iPadOS desktop where you can have up to four other apps open and active, giving your iPad a total of 8 active apps at any given time. Yes, it’s an impressive leap in Apple’s tablet capabilities. Below, I’ll walk you through where to find the Stage Manager toggle, as well as some basic information on using the new feature. But before I get too ahead of myself, there’s one more thing to sort out.
How to use Stage Manager on iPadOS 16
There is a caveat, because of course there is.
The new Stage Manager feature does not work on any iPad that is compatible with iPadOS 16. It is limited to iPads that use the Apple M1 processor, which right now includes iPad Pro 2021 and iPad Air 2022. Apple says the iPad M1 models need more processing power, faster memory, virtual memory, and a USB-C 4/Thunderbolt 4 port.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is, and Apple doesn’t seem to care about users who are upset about missing Stage Manager.
How to turn Stage Manager on and off
Stage Manager is again an optional feature. You can use it as little or as often as you like, with a quick tap of a button to turn it on or off. This button is located in the Control Center of the iPad. To access it, swipe down from the top right corner of the iPad screen. Here you will see a new icon with three dots on the left side and a rectangle to the left of the dots. Click the icon to turn on the Stage Manager.
If you want to go back to a more traditional iPad layout, open the Control Center again and tap the Stage Manager button to turn it off.
What to do after activating Stage Manager
You may not notice a difference in the appearance of your iPad after turning on Stage Manager and exiting Control Center, especially if you return to the Home screen.
Open any app on the iPad and you’ll see the basic but impressive change Apple has made to multitasking with Stage Manager. As you can see in the screenshot above, the Weather app no longer takes up the entire screen. Instead, it’s slightly smaller, and on the left side of the screen are app thumbnails for previously used apps.
Tap the app icon to open another app or tap the thumbnail on the left side of the screen to switch to that particular app.
Use multiple apps at once
If you want to add a second, third or even fourth app to your iPad view, just drag the app icon from the dock or app library. Or you can drag the thumbnail preview from the left side of the screen to open it next to the active window (ok).
When you add a second app, both windows are resized to split the screen space evenly. But don’t feel like you’re stuck with windows in a split-screen-like arrangement. You can resize, overlap, and stack windows.
iPadOS 16 intentionally leaves the edge of all active apps visible so you have somewhere to switch between apps. Again, you can have up to four apps open and available at any given time.
In the screenshot above, you can see that I have Safari, Tweetbot, Weather, and Apple Music open and active on my iPad Pro screen, each at a different size and overlapping.
If you open a single app or switch to an app (or group of apps) that’s on the left side of the Stage Manager, the apps you currently have open will move to the left side of the screen, so you can easily remember. the same group if necessary.
Resize, minimize and close applications
When Stage Manager is active, you’ll see a button with three dots at the top of each application window. When you select this button, a menu appears with several actions you can perform. Here’s a quick overview of what each option does:
- Enlargement expands the current application to full screen, but leaves the rest of the application group in the background.
- Add another window moves the currently visible apps to the edge of the screen where you can browse your app library or home screen to open another app to add to your current group.
- Minimalize moves that particular application to the left side of the Stage Manager.
- Close completely closes that specific application.
When it comes to resizing application windows, you have several options. You can use the curved handle, often found in the lower right or lower left corner of the window, or if you have a mouse/trackpad connected to your iPad, you can move the pointer to any edge of the window to make adjustments.
Window sizes are not 100% free, but instead the window snaps to pre-existing sizes determined by iPadOS. But from what I’ve experienced so far, there are countless possibilities that you can adjust to any size.
You can even resize windows to automatically hide the application dock at the bottom of the screen or cover the scene manager area on the left side of the display.
Using Stage Manager with an external monitor
Now that you’ve mastered Stage Manager on your iPad, it’s time to take it to the next level by connecting your iPad to an external monitor.
Stage Manager works in resolutions up to 6K. Unlike the previous implementation of external monitor support for the iPad, instead of mirroring the iPad’s display to the monitor, you get a second home screen complete with an app dock and Stage Manager thumbnails.
The Stage Manager on the monitor is activated automatically when you connect the iPad. Once connected, you can open apps, resize them, and move them as we just mentioned. An additional option is included in the menu button with three dots at the top of each window: Move to view or Move to iPad, depending on what device it is currently on. As the name suggests, selecting this option will move the window to another screen.
On another display, Stage Manager works and works just like it does on the iPad. Using the monitor, you double the maximum number of open and active applications at a given time from four to eight. And thus the need for high performance requirements and the restriction of the Stage Manager to the M1 processor. For better or worse.
Stage Manager in iPadOS 16 has a few more features and nuances, but since the update is still in beta, I’ll hold off on covering them thoroughly until the official release. Apple often makes feature changes as it gathers feedback during the beta process.
If you want to sign up for the iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 beta, you can do so right away by following the instructions here. Be aware that you will run into bugs and issues, and installing the beta version on devices you rely on daily is not recommended.
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