External Displays with Stage Manager on iPadOS

External Displays with Stage Manager on iPadOS

This is the third post in my series of articles on the new Stage Manager feature in iPadOS 16 (and macOS Ventura). Today, I will take a look at external display support on iPadOS.

Changes in Developer Beta 2

Before we start, Developer Beta 2 of iPadOS 16 is out with a few notable changes:

  • Settings
  • Keyboard Shortcuts

Settings

There’s now a dedicated Stage Manager section in Settings > Home Screen & Dock. Here you can turn Stage Manager on or off and select whether the Recent Apps (which I previously referred to as Application Groups) and the Dock are visible when the mode is enabled.

Stage Manager in Settings

Keyboard Shortcuts

New keyboard shortcuts have been added for controlling Stage Manager:

  • Globe-Left-Arrow: If Stage Manager is enabled, this moves to the Previous Window Set.
  • Globe-Right-Arrow: If Stage Manager is enabled, this moves to the Next Window Set.
  • Globe-Backtick: Selects the Next Window on Stage.
  • Globe-F: Zooms the current frontmost window to full screen and back.
  • Command-M: Removes the frontmost window from the Window Set.
  • Control-Globe-Up Arrow: When implemented, this will another window to the Window Set. This is analogous to tapping the … at the top of window and tapping the plus button. Right now, the following alert appears when pressing this shortcut, “Not Available Yet. For now, please use drag and drop to add more windows.”

Note, the first three keyboard shortcuts are also available when Stage Manager is disabled. They would move between apps or switch focus between apps in Split View and Slide Over respectively.

I hope to see additional keyboard shortcuts added in the next release. I am a little concerned about using Command-M shortcut to close a window. Why not use Command-W, as that’s the universal keyboard shortcut for closing windows? Unless Apple changes this, any app using Command-M will need to be updated to avoid having this keyboard shortcut overridden by the system default.


External Display Support in iPadOS 15

For many years, iPads could connect to external displays, but the default behavior was to mirror the built-in display on the external monitor. Some applications supported displaying different content on the external display, such as a video, slideshow, or slide deck. Photos, for instance, previewed the selected photo in full screen. This secondary view was not interactive, and you couldn’t move the cursor onto the second screen.

Photos app (Left) displaying selected photo on external display (Right)

Take a Left on Split View

If two applications that supported external display output were running in Split View, the left application would control what is being displayed on the external display. Consider the following two screenshots:

Photos (Left) and Keynote (Right): Photos will be displayed on external monitor.
Keynote (Left) and Photos (Right): Keynote will be displayed on external monitor.

This behavior also takes precedence on an external monitor on iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager enabled. An application running on the built-in display that outputs to an external display will take over the second screen. I take advantage of this in my use case below.


External Displays in iPadOS 16

Now with iPadOS 16 on M1-powered iPads, Stage Manager becomes active on the second screen, provided that mirroring has been disabled. This even works if the built-in display has turned off Stage Manager.

iPad in Split View (Left) and external display using Stage Manager (Right).

For those who want to subscribe to the iPad-only lifestyle, you now have a way to run an additional four apps on the external display. While experience isn’t quite as refined as it is on macOS (for reasons explained in the previous articles), it’s still a win if you have an M1 iPad, since this ability did not even exist before.

Use Case: Keynote and MixEffect

My iPad is typically plugged into a Uni 8-in-1 USB-C hub, which has an HDMI Out port that goes into my Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme ISO switcher on Input 2. The switcher allows me to toggle between my camera, my Mac mini’s HDMI output, iPad, and other devices. One of the auxiliary outputs from the ATEM goes into a 1080p monitor. I can show the Multiview on this display, or any of my ATEM switcher’s inputs, including the iPad on Input 2.

Setting auxiliary outputs from MixEffect

I use Keynote in my What’s New in MixEffect videos, and I run the application from one of three devices:

  • Mac outputting to HDMI onto Input 4.
  • iPod touch outputting via AirPlay to Input 6.
  • iOS device outputting to HDMI onto Input 3.

With iPadOS 16, I can use my iPad on Input 2 to do double duty. Keynote can run on the built-in iPad display and MixEffect can run on the external display. This frees up the Mac so I can either not use it at all or run overlays and lower-thirds using H2R Graphics.

When I tap Play in Keynote, the presentation will take over the external display.

Keynote (Left) taking over the external display (Right)

When I stop the presentation, the external display will go back to the current stage containing MixEffect and any other apps in the current window set.

Keynote (Left) stopped, so the current stage with MixEffect appears on external display (Right)

And all this time, I have the Upstream Keyer DVE on in the ATEM to show my face on camera when I’m recording.


Arrangement

I can adjust the position of the iPad screen relative to the external display in Settings > Display & Brightness > Arrangement. Here’s an animated GIF moving the iPad display from the right of the display to the left and toggling Mirror Display mode.

Fitts Frustration

Fitts’ law is used in user interface design to add actions to the edges and corners of screen. Recent Apps, the Dock, Control Center, and Quick Note. can easily be revealed by quickly moving your cursor to the appropriate edge or corner on the iPad’s screen. Once you add a secondary display, however, Fitts’s Law becomes one of frustration for invoking actions along the shared edge.

For instance, say your iPad is below the external display, and you want to access Control Center. With your finger or the Globe-C shortcut, it’s easy, but try it with the trackpad or mouse and you will invariably go to the second screen.

Similarly, if the Dock is hidden from Stage Manager, you have to position the cursor carefully at the bottom of the second display to avoid having it go to the built-in display.

Put the iPad to the left or right of the display, and you won’t run into problems revealing the Dock or Control Center, but you might with the Recent Apps list on the left-hand side of the screen. I used to use an app called Teleport which enabled you to share a single mouse across two computers. You could configure it switch to the other computer by double-hitting the edge of the screen with the cursor. Maybe Apple can do something like that to preserve the ability to hit the edge/corner gestures and switch between displays.

Display Settings Shortcut

I wish there was a dedicated Shortcut action or keyboard shortcut to toggle the Mirror Display option. Until then, here’s a shortcut that takes you to the Display & Brightness section in Settings. This shortcut works when added to the Home Screen, used as a Widget, or launched from the Shortcuts app. It does not work when invoked via Siri, as it opens Safari instead of opening the Settings app (FB10451838 filed with Apple).

Display Zoom

I get three Display Zoom options with the Pro Display XDR:

  • Zoomed
  • Standard
  • More Space

The following screenshots show the different Display Zoom settings on the Pro Display XDR with Safari and Numbers open to show a desktop-sized view.

It’s easy to see that higher resolution monitors allow for larger, non-overlapping windows. If you have a 1080p display, be prepared for small windows or overlapping windows. Here, I had to shrink Numbers in order to prevent the windows from overlapping. Since the information density is low, the better approach is to make the window bigger and deal with the overlap.

Prepare yourself for small windows or overlapping windows with a 1080p monitor
Windows are larger, but they must overlap in 1080p

Focus

The window with the current focus has a pill shape surrounding its three dots at the top. Pressing the Globe-Backtick button will switch between windows in a stage, similar to switching between the two apps in a Split View with the same keyboard shortcut.

This effect is very subtle and is an argument for overlapping your windows. When windows are overlapped, the non-front most windows are slightly reduced in size, which makes identifying the active window easier than looking at the top of each window for a pill-shaped outline. This reminds me of MixEffect’s SuperSource Box Highlight feature.

Which window is in focus is easier to determine when the windows are overlapping
Which window has focus when all windows are non-overlapping?

Cursoring Around

The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro has a diminutive trackpad compared to the Magic Trackpad or the one on today’s Mac laptops. While it works well when moving the cursor on the built-in Retina display, it is too small and cramped when mousing around on a large, external display.

Resizing windows is an arduous process, even with trackpad or mouse support. When I click and drag a window to resize it, iPadOS 16 automatically snaps and moves the window to fit a particular size class and grid position. Unlike macOS, where I have complete control of the size and position of a window, this feels off. I have less control and spend more time adjusting the window after the fact because iPadOS 16 didn’t get it right the first time.

I also have to be wary of iPadOS’s automatic snapping to UI controls. A few extra pixels to the left on the right edge of a window, and the cursor snaps to something I don’t want to click on.


Bugs

Here are some bugs that I have filed with Apple using their Feedback Assistant website.

Window Set Keyboard Shortcuts

The keyboard shortcuts to move between window sets works inconsistently on the external display, regardless of where the cursor is. It only seems to change window sets on the built-in display (FB10452809 filed with Apple).

One App Per Stage/Display?

One oddity that I have yet to get a grasp on is if you can have multiple windows for an app spread across two displays. Suppose I want to have Safari on both the built-in display and the external display. Right now, I don’t think this is possible. I’m trying the following on Developer Beta 2 (FB10452895 filed with Apple):

  1. Drag Safari onto a pre-existing stage on iPad.
  2. Go to the external display and drag Safari from the dock.
  3. See the Safari window in (1) disappear and appear on the external display.

This also happens on the built-in display:

  1. Drag Safari onto a pre-existing stage on the iPad.
  2. Go to another stage on the iPad.
  3. Drag Safari onto the new stage. See that the Safari window from (1) now appears in (2).

Is this expected behavior? Should a new Safari window be added to the new stage instead of taking an existing Safari window and moving it to the new stage? What do you think?

Shortcuts and MixEffect on External Display

Shortcuts cannot target the frontmost MixEffect window when on an external display (FB10451864 filed with Apple).

  • ❌ Shortcuts on external display. MixEffect on external display.
  • ❌ Shortcuts on external display. MixEffect on built-in display.
  • ✅ Shortcuts on built-in display. MixEffect on built-in display.
  • ✅ Shortcuts on built-in display. MixEffect on external display.

Further Reading

All my articles on Stage Manager, in chronological order below:

  • First Impressions: Stage Manager on iPadOS

  • Managing Three to Four Apps in Stage Manager in Developer Beta 1

  • External Displays with Stage Manager on iPadOS


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