With the release of iPadOS 16, even in its current beta form, Apple completely changed how I use my iPad Pro. After years of screaming to myself 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.
Stage Manager, however, is an optional feature. It’s something you have to look for and then turn on specifically. But when it’s enabled, you can have up to four apps running on your iPad’s screen at a given time — each of which can be moved around the screen and resized, just like you can on a Mac.
And when you connect your iPad to an external monitor, you’ll 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 any given time. Yeah, it’s an impressive leap in capabilities for Apple’s tablet. Below I’ll walk you through where to find the Stage Manager toggle as well as cover some basics about using the new feature. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, there’s something else that needs to be addressed.
How to use Stage Manager on iPadOS 16
There’s a caveat because of course there is.
The new Stage Manager feature doesn’t work on just any iPad that’s compatible with iPadOS 16. It’s limited to iPads that use Apple’s M1 processor, which right now includes the 2021 iPad Pro and the 2022 iPad Air. Apple cites the need for extra processing power, faster memory, virtual memory, and the USB-C 4/Thunderbolt 4 port on M1 iPad models.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is and Apple doesn’t appear to be worried about users who are upset about missing out on 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 often as you’d like, with a quick tap of a button toggling it on or off. That button is located in the iPad’s Control Center. To access it, swipe down from the top right corner of your iPad’s screen. There you’ll see a new icon that has three dots on the left side, with a rectangle to the left of the dots. Tap on the icon to turn on Stage Manager.
If you want to revert back to the more traditional iPad layout, open Control Center again and tap the Stage Manager button to turn it off.
What to do after you’ve enabled Stage Manager
You may not notice a difference in how your iPad looks after turning Stage Manager and leaving Control Center, especially if you go back to the home screen.
Open any app on your iPad to see the basic but impactful change Apple made to multitasking with Stage Manager. As you can see in the screenshot above, the Weather app is no longer taking up the entire display. Instead, it’s slightly smaller and there are app thumbnails for previously used apps on the left side of the screen.
You can either tap on an app icon to open another 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 the iPad, you just need to drag and drop the app’s icon from the dock or App Library. Or you can drag a thumbnail preview from the left side of the screen to open it next to your active window(s).
When you add a second app, both windows will resize to split the screen space evenly. But don’t feel like you’re stuck with the windows in a split screen-like arrangement. You can resize the windows, overlapping and stacking them atop one another.
iPadOS 16 purposely leaves an edge of all the active apps visible, so you have somewhere to tap to switch between apps. Again, you can have up to four apps open and available at a given time.
In the screenshot above, you can see I have Safari, Tweetbot, Weather and Apple Music open and active on my iPad Pro’s screen, each one a different size and overlapping.
If you open a single app or switch to an app (or app group) that’s on the left side of Stage Manager, the app(s) you currently have open will move to the left side of the screen, making it easy to recall that same group when needed.
Resize, minimize and close apps
You’ll see a three-dot button at the top of every app window when Stage Manager is active. When selected, that button reveals a menu that gives you a few actions you can take. Here’s a quick rundown of what each option does:
- zoom expands the current app to full-screen size, but it keeps the remaining app group in the background.
- Add Another Window will push the currently visible apps off to the side of the screen where you can view your App Library or home screen to open another app, adding to your current group.
- minimize moves that specific app to the left side of Stage Manager.
- Close will completely close that particular app.
You have a couple of options when it comes to resizing app windows. You can use the curved handle that’s often located in either the bottom 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 aren’t 100% free form, but instead the window will sort of snap to preexisting sizes determined by iPadOS. But from what I’ve experienced so far, countless options make it feel like you can adjust to any size.
You can even adjust the size of windows so that they automatically hide the app dock at the bottom of the screen or cover up the stage manager area on the left side of the display.
Using Stage Manager with an external monitor
Now that you have the hang of Stage Manager on the iPad, it’s time to take it to the next level by connecting your iPad to an external monitor.
Stage Manager works at a resolution of up to 6K. Unlike the previous implementation of external monitor support for the iPad, instead of mirroring your iPad’s display to the monitor, you gain a second home screen, complete with an app dock and Stage Manager thumbnails.
Stage Manager on a monitor is enabled automatically when you connect the iPad. Once connected, you can open apps, resize them and move them around, as we just covered. An additional option is included in the three-dot menu button at the top of each window: Move to Display or Move to iPad, depending on which device it’s currently on. As the name implies, selecting that option will move the window to the other screen.
On another display, Stage Manager works and acts just like it does on the iPad. By using a monitor, you double the maximum number of open and active apps at a given time from four to eight. And thus, the need for the high-performance requirements and limiting Stage Manager to the M1 processor. For better or worse.
There are a few other features and nuances to Stage Manager in iPadOS 16, but with the update still in beta, I’m going to hold off on thoroughly covering them until the official release. Apple often makes changes to features as it gathers feedback during the beta process.
If you want to sign up for the iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 beta, you can right now by following the instructions outlined here. Just know that you will encounter bugs and issues, and installing the beta on any devices you rely on daily is not recommended.