Gnome windowing becoming more like Apple's Stage Manager?

The Gnome foundation, which makes arguably the most popular desktop environment for Linux, is experimenting with new windowing models. While there’s development work going into better tiling, the more interesting mode is what they’re calling “Mosaic” – and to my eyes, it looks quite a bit like Apple’s Stage Manager.

Here’s how they describe how it works:

You open a window, it opens centered on the screen at a size that makes the most sense for the app. For a web browser that might be maximized, for a weather app maybe only 700×500 pixels. As you open more windows, the existing windows move aside to make room for the new ones. If a new window doesn’t fit (e.g. because it wants to be maximized) it moves to its own workspace. If the window layout comes close to filling the screen, the windows are automatically tiled.

That’s a pretty good description of how Stage Manager works too, although the details are different. By default when you open a new application in Stage Manager, it opens in its own “workspace”, with other windows sliding into the shelf on the side. Drag another window in and Stage Manager tries to move windows about so they overlap in the smallest possible way. The Gnome approach looks to be more aggressive about tiling and avoiding overlaps, and although the underlying grid which Stage Manager uses is more relaxed in iPadOS 17 it still feels more “gridded” than Mosaic.

It will be really interesting to see where Gnome goes with this – and what the reaction to it will be. Some parts of the Linux community are heavily committed to tiling and see overlapping windows as basically an error in the history of operating systems, while others are more relaxed and open to new ideas.

Ian Betteridge @ianbetteridge