macOS Ventura preview: Stage Manager is the star of the show – Yahoo Sports | Hot Mobile Press

It’s an easier and more effective way to switch between apps.

video transcript

DEVINDRA HARDAWAR: It’s rare for Apple to fundamentally transform the way people work on Macs, but with Stage Manager in macOS Ventura it looks like they’re trying to do just that. At first glance, it looks like a quick way to easily switch between apps, and it is. But after also testing the macOS Ventura public beta for the past few weeks, I’ve also found that it honestly fixes a lot of issues that have been endemic to Macs since OS 10 launched 21 years ago. Or maybe I’ve just always hated Apple’s stocks.

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In addition to the Stage Manager, macOS Ventura has many features that should make Apple users’ lives a lot easier. There are some big updates to Mail and Messages. And overall, it looks like a more compelling update than Monterey last year. But I think what matters most is Stage Manager, simply because it’s such a dramatic departure for Apple.

Now I’ll tell you a story. In the 20 years that I’ve used Macs, first as a college student, then as an IT worker, and then as a tech writer, I just never liked the OS 10 dock. I just never found the document very useful, to be honest. Sure, it was a huge visual upgrade over the really basic taskbars we saw in 1998 on Windows XP and many, many flavors of Linux, but on its own the Dock is sort of a confusing mishmash of shortcuts and application-running status indicators . It’s just a little difficult to use compared to other platforms. And what’s funny is that back in 2001, some reviews were complaining about the same thing.

Let me give you an example. If you had a lot of Safari windows open on your Mac and you wanted to go to a specific window that might have your Gmail tab, using the Dock alone would require you to hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard. Click on the icon in the dock and then look at the drop down menu and click on that specific window in the drop down menu. That’s a lot of steps.

Windows XP is pretty ugly in comparison, was pretty ugly then and still is, but if I wanted to find a specific window in Windows, I just click on the taskbar and it’s right there. And I think Apple was aware of this usability quirk, or just a lack, because in 2003 they released Expose, a feature that allowed you to blow up all your windows to see what’s on your System running simultaneously, or Windows for a specific application.

And since that debuted, I’ve finally been able to use Macs. And that’s something I think I’ve religiously enabled for every single Mac I’ve used since 2004, 2005. Now it’s part of Mission Control, but it’s still a really useful feature. And I know there are keyboard shortcuts you can use to switch between apps too, but I don’t like tapping multiple keys multiple times. Expose really changed the world a lot for me because I thought about it like that, you know who needs a dock when you have an overview of your entire running system.

Now we fast forward 20 years and we have stage managers. And at first it looks like another way to easily switch between applications. And like I said, it does. But it also tidies up your screen, although it seems like it adds more clutter to the overall interface.

When you click a shortcut in Stage Manager, the computer focuses on that particular app. It places it in the center of the screen. It minimizes and somehow hides all the other clutter, all the other windows you’re running, so you’re just looking at a single window. And that really helps you focus.

And Stage Manager does this for every app you run, which seems a bit limiting at first as I like having multiple apps running at the same time. But what’s useful is that you can actually drag an app into another Stage Manager shortcut and run them together in an app group. And that’s just a nice way to get back into your workflow for something specific.

While I was writing this preview, I usually had a note-taking application or word processor and a web browser at the same time, and it supplanted Slack, it supplanted Spotify, and all the other things that got in the way of my writing focus.

Another thing is that Stage Manager gives you a focused workspace which I think is far more useful than Apple Spaces which is their virtual desktop feature. Well, that’s useful for some people, but I’ve always hated setting up a space and then having to click around and go back to another space to see what’s going on in Slack when I need it. This gives you one click to jump back to Slack or anything else via the Stage Manager, or back into the research and writing workflow.

Well, if you’re a Mac user who’s already settled into your habit and you don’t have any trouble navigating your windows, then you don’t have to worry about Stage Manager at all. You can turn it off entirely from the taskbar at the top of the screen and in System Preferences, and just don’t worry.

But I think for new users and for people who, like me, need to span both Windows and Macs, it gives you another way to manage Macs and it just feels a lot more convenient. To be honest I can’t wait until I can just minimize the dock and just never have to look at it again.

As for the other updates in Ventura, it’s a lot of stuff that honestly Apple should have built into these apps a long time ago. For example, the Mail application has a much better search to help you locate a specific message. It has better rich text editing. In the compose window you can now actually insert links.

There is a schedule send function and an undo send function. You know, all the stuff that we’ve had in Gmail for almost a decade at this point. It just seems like Apple is catching up there. Personally, I just don’t use email apps anymore because I have Gmail accounts in multiple browsers. But for people who do, this is a nice update for it.

And similarly, you get some quality of life improvements in Messages too. You can just tap an existing message and edit it. After a period of time, you can delete messages completely. If you’re talking to someone who hasn’t updated to Ventura yet, they’ll just get a separate message that says “Hey, that person edited that particular message.” It’s going to look a bit messy, but honestly, Android users have to deal with it when someone uses the iMessage feature. So Apple users get a taste of it too.

You also get better collaboration features over Messages. You can start Share Play sessions to watch content together with your friends. To test that, you need other people running Ventura, and I didn’t have anyone around who could really spend time with me. So I haven’t tested this yet, but seen it functionally, and from what I’ve seen from Share Play it seems like a cool idea.

And perhaps the coolest feature macOS Ventura will get is the pass-through camera that works in tandem with a small accessory. It’s an iPhone mount accessory that you can attach to your monitor or your MacBook. And with that, you can essentially only use your iPhone as a high-quality camera for macOS.

Well that’s kind of a fun thing to see. We don’t typically see Apple leaning into such accessories. And that feature alone seems to say that Apple’s MacBook cameras and their Studio Display cameras just aren’t that great. I’m really excited about this feature. I haven’t gotten it working on my preview hardware yet, but I’m looking forward to doing some testing with it.

I think for some people, instant access to a much higher quality camera will make your video chats look better, your chats with friends will look great. It adds some friction when setting up a video chat. And I think a lot of people, to be honest, are just used to having their phones around. So if they’re in a business video chat or something, they can goof around and be on Twitter and do other things without even paying attention to the chat. So people will have to get used to that.

Safari is also getting a few updates, including shared tab groups. So if you are planning a vacation with friends, you can easily work together. Apple is also introducing passkeys in Safari, which essentially should completely replace passwords for supported websites. So it’s just a way to authenticate with your iCloud account on a website and not have to worry about entering a password at all.

But of course, not every page will be updated to it anytime soon. So Apple also gives you a better way to edit and tweak those auto-generated super secure passwords they sometimes give you. So I think that’s kind of cool too, because a lot of sites have weird limitations. So it’s nice to have an editing function there.

And finally, Apple will introduce a new app called Freeform in Ventura. It’s a collaboration app. It’s just a giant whiteboard surface. It’s certainly like a new looking thing for Apple. Just feels somehow inventive and fresh. We haven’t been able to test Freeform yet, but it’s likely to drop later this year, so look for more coverage then.

Overall, I think macOS Ventura is shaping up to be a really interesting update from Apple, certainly a lot more exciting than Monterey last year. So we will keep testing it. This is preview software only and Apple tends to discontinue more features as we get closer to the official release date. We don’t yet know when that will be. It’s usually after we’ve started getting new hardware, so most likely October, maybe November depending on how the schedules go.

But, you know what? Stay tuned to Engadget because we’ll be covering all of this stuff and any other updates coming from Apple and Microsoft and everyone else throughout the year. So stay tuned. If you dug up this video, please don’t forget to like and subscribe.

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