New way to switch apps in macOS Ventura and Office for Mac

The 2022 ‘Ventura’ release of macOS has a new way to switch between apps called ‘Stage Manager’. It works well with Office for Mac, making it easier to see what’s open and available. But Stage Manager has its frustrations in this first release.

Stage Manager appears on the left side, showing the most recently used apps with large views.

Stage Manager (left) showing other open apps; Finder, WhatsApp, Edge and Outlook.

Instead of having a screen cluttered with windows, Stage Manager puts everything to one side except the program you’re currently working on.  Up to six Stage Manager thumbnails, depending on the screen size.

Turn on Stage Manager

Switch Stage Manager on/off from the Control Center.

Click a thumbnail at left to put that app on the main screen, the current app will move to the Stage Manager view.

Click on the desktop wallpaper to reveal the desktop.

Shortcuts for Stage Manager

Stage Manager works with existing shortcuts in macOS.

Minimizing a window from the top-left yellow button or Command + M will still do that but also include that app in the Stage Manager display.

Hide/Show (Dock menu options for any app or Command + H) will remove/reveal the app from Stage Manager and Dock.

The Stage Manager list will appear at left automatically but will hide if you move an app window over the left-side.

Full screen modes (as in Word, PowerPoint and Excel) still take up the whole screen including the Stage Manager area.

Command + Tab is still there to switch between apps.

Command + ` (backtick) will switch between windows in the current app.

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Stage Manager grouping

But what if you want more than one app to be on screen at the same time?  That’s where Grouping comes in.

To make a window appear but leave the current windows in place,

  • hold down Shift while pressing on the Stage Manager thumbnail. OR
  • Drag a thumbnail from Stage Manager to the center of the screen.

The two (or more) apps are now a Group, with an icon for each. They appear combined in Stage Manager like this:

Stage Manager group (bottom) with Word, Excel and Edge apps combined.

To remove an item from a group, drag that window back to the Stage Manager left/thumbnail area.

To move an app to another group, drag the app to a Stage Manager thumbnail. That will open the thumbnailed app on the screen and then you can drop the dragged app into place.

Frustrating things about Stage Manager

The most frustrating thing about Stage Manager is the lack of control.  Software decides which apps appear on the side, based on usage only.

The grouping system is messy and confusing.

You can remove an app from Stage Manager but using Hide from the Dock or Command + H is hardly obvious.

There’s no option to ‘pin’ or fix an app to Stage Manager so it stays visible if opened. For example, to keep Outlook, Signal or Whatsapp visible on the side.

In our testing, sometimes Stage Manager stubbornly refused to switch to another app, possibly because of an open dialog box.