At WWDC 2022, Apple unveiled Stage Manager, a new iPadOS 16 feature that brings multi-window and full external display support for the first time to select iPads. Apple‘s annual developer conference puts the focus on software and its various operating systems. It is typically the first look at Apple software updates that will be released in the fall, and can provide insight into where the company plans to take its product lines. Sometimes, there are even hardware releases, such as the new M2 MacBook Air announced this year.

The WWDC keynote took over two hours to showcase a slew of new features across iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS. Early on in the keynote, it was clear that there would be a game-changing feature added to iPadOS in the upcoming release. The company typically showcases the next iPadOS release directly after previewing iOS, since it is essentially an expanded version of the smartphone operating system. However, after previewing the newest iOS features, the company skipped to its other operating systems before returning to iPadOS. This was a hint that Apple had big plans for iPadOS 16, and it was confirmed when the company concluded the event with the iPadOS preview.


Related: iOS 16 Makes Sharing Easier With iCloud Shared Photo Library

The iPad has spent the last few years trying to compete with traditional computers, but is still limited in functionality. Apple aims to change that in iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager, a take on multi-window support that is specifically catered to the iPad user experience. Stage Manager makes it possible to have multiple applications open at the same time in overlapping windows. Previously, the iPad could support up to four open applications at the same time, but it was extremely limited in the ways that users could configure the apps. It wasn’t even close to the flexibility provided by the open window layout of macOS, but Stage Manager aims to close that gap.

Stage Manager Is Coming To M1 iPads

Stage Manager's external display support in iOS 16.

With Stage Manager, the iPad’s user interface transitions into an open window environment that can support up to four overlapping applications at the same time. Underneath the open applications, the dock is present for easy access to a user’s favorite or most-used applications. To the left of the active windows on an iPad, a rolling list of the iPad’s other active applications is shown. A simple tap or drag can bring one of these hidden applications to the forefront of the display, and windows can be resized and moved with hand gestures. A user can also create and save custom workflows by making different groups with up to four applications each. These groups will appear in the left-hand column of Stage Manager for easy access.

iPadOS 16 will also bring full external display support to iPads. Once an iPad is connected to an external display, Stage Manager fills the screen and provides space for another four applications. In total, an iPad connected to an external display can have eight open applications at once, configured to the user’s preferences. Unfortunately, Stage Manager is limited to iPads powered by the M1 chip, which currently includes the fifth-generation iPad Air and iPad Pro models. Stage Manager is a welcome addition for power users, and will be available on supported models when iPadOS 16 is released to the public this fall.