With the release of iPadOS 16, even in its current beta form, Apple completely changed the way I use mine iPad Pro. After years of yelling about the lack of a better multitasking interface and true external monitor support, Apple has finally added both the ability to select iPads via a feature called Stage Manager.
However, Stage Manager is an optional feature. It’s something you need to look for and then purposefully turn on. But when it’s enabled, you can run up to four apps simultaneously on your iPad’s screen — each of which can be moved and resized around the screen, just like you can 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 more apps open and active, giving the iPad a total of 8 active apps at all times. Yes, it’s an impressive leap in performance for Apple’s tablet. Below I’ll explain where to find the Stage Manager toggle and cover some basics on how to use the new feature. But before I get too far ahead, there is something else that needs to be addressed.
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 every iPad compatible with iPadOS 16. It is limited to iPads using Apple’s M1 processor, which currently includes the 2021 iPad Pro and the 2022 iPad Air. Apple cites the need for additional processing power, faster storage, virtual storage, and the USB-C 4/Thunderbolt 4 port on M1 iPad models.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is, and Apple doesn’t seem concerned about users getting upset about missing Stage Manager.
How to turn Stage Manager on and off
Again, Stage Manager is an optional feature. You can use it as little or as much as you like by turning it on or off with a quick press of a button. This button is located in the iPad Control Center. To access it, swipe down from the top-right corner of your iPad’s screen. There you will see a new icon with three dots on the left and a rectangle to the left of the dots. Tap the icon to activate Stage Manager.
If you want to go back to the more traditional iPad layout, reopen the Control Center and tap the “Stage Manager” button to disable it.
What to do after you activate Stage Manager
You may not notice a difference in how your iPad looks after you enable Stage Manager and exit Control Center, especially when you return to the home screen.
Open any app on your iPad to see the fundamental but powerful 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 display. Instead, it’s a bit smaller and there are app thumbnails for previously used apps on the left side of the screen.
You can either tap an app icon to open a different app, or tap the thumbnail on the left side of the screen to switch to that specific app.
Use more than one app at a time
If you want to add a second, third, or even fourth app to your view on iPad, all you have to do is drag and drop the app’s icon from the Dock or the App Library. Or you can drag a thumbnail preview from the left side of the screen to open it next to your active windows.
When you add a second app, both windows are resized to evenly split the screen space. But don’t feel like you’re stuck with the windows in a split-screen-like arrangement. You can resize the windows, overlap them, and stack them on top of each other.
iPadOS 16 intentionally leaves a border of all active apps visible, requiring you to tap anywhere to switch between apps. Again, you can have up to four apps open and available at the same time.
In the screenshot above, you can see that Safari, Tweetbot, Weather, and Apple Music are open and active on my iPad Pro’s screen, each at a different size and overlapping.
If you open a single app or switch to an app (or app group) that is on the left side of Stage Manager, the app(s) you currently have open will be moved to the left side of the screen, so you can easily remember same group if needed.
Resize, minimize and close apps
When Stage Manager is active, you’ll see a three-dot button at the top of each app window. Selecting this button will bring up a menu offering you some actions you can perform. Here’s a quick overview of what each option does:
- zoom expands the current app to full screen size but leaves the remaining app group in the background.
- Add another window moves the currently visible apps to the side of the screen where you can view your app library or the home screen to open another app and add it to your current group.
- Minimize moves that specific app to the left side of Stage Manager.
- Close will close that particular app completely.
There are several ways to resize app windows. You can use the curved handle, which is often found in either the lower right or 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 and make adjustments .
The window sizes are not 100% free, but the window adapts to existing sizes determined by iPadOS. But from what I’ve experienced so far, myriad options feel like you can adjust to any size.
You can even resize windows to auto-hide the app dock at the bottom of the screen or hide the stage manager area on the left side of the display.
Using Stage Manager with an external monitor
Now that you’ve mastered Stage Manager on iPad, it’s time to take it to the next level by connecting your iPad to an external monitor.
Stage Manager works with a resolution of up to 6K. Unlike the previous implementation of external monitor support for the iPad, instead of mirroring your iPad’s display onto the monitor, you get a second home screen, complete with an app dock and Stage Manager thumbnails.
Stage Manager on a monitor is automatically activated when you connect the iPad. Once connected, you can open, resize, and move apps as we just discussed. An additional option is included in the three-dot menu button at the top of each window: Go to Display or Switch to the iPad, depending on what device it’s currently running on. As the name suggests, selecting this option moves the window to the other screen.
On another display, Stage Manager works and behaves the same as it does on the iPad. By using a monitor, you double the maximum number of open and active apps at any given time from four to eight. And with it the need for the high performance requirements and the limitation of Stage Manager to the M1 processor. Willy-nilly.
There are a few other Stage Manager features and nuances in iPadOS 16, but since the update is still in beta, I won’t cover them in detail until the official release. Apple often makes feature changes as it collects feedback during the beta process.
If you want to sign up for the iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 beta, you can do so now by following the instructions outlined here. Be aware that you will encounter bugs and issues and that installing the beta version on devices that you rely on daily is not recommended.