Pages 2.0: Search tool distinguishes between regular space and non-breaking space when it should notPosted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
February 15th, 2007 • 4:51 pm
Here’s yet another example of how a U.S.-centric piece of software designed by American developers ends up “punishing” foreigners for daring to use their software in apparently unintended ways.
I have already had the opportunity to discuss, on several occasions, the fact that the non-breaking space is an essential part of French typography, where it is used in combination with certain punctuation marks (notably the colon and the French quotation marks).
What should also be said, however, is that even English writers should use this character more often. It is rather unsightly, for example, when you write “Mac OS X” in a text, be it in English or in French, to see your word processor or text editor insert an automatic line break right after the “OS” and before the “X.”
It is unsightly in the same way that seeing your word processor insert an automatic page break between a heading and the first paragraph that follows the heading is unsightly—which you can avoid by using the “Keep With Next” paragraph formatting option.
The character-level equivalent of the “Keep With Next” paragraph formatting option is the non-breaking space. But I suppose not enough English writers care about this, because I very rarely see English documents that use that characters.
I, on the other hand, do care, and therefore I tend to use the non-breaking space a lot, both in English and in French (more in French, obviously, since it is mandatory with certain punctuation marks, but also in English, precisely to avoid unsightly line breaks).
Unfortunately, I get regularly punished for this, because the software that I use is designed by American developers who could not care less about the non-breaking space. And it’s not just Microsoft developers, although they are typically the worst offenders.
Apple’s own Pages fails to take the use of the non-breaking space into account when it comes to searching for phrases in documents. When you search for a phrase such as “Appendix A” in a Pages document, if the space between “Appendix” and “A” happens to be a non-breaking space, then if you typed a regular space in the “Find/Replace” dialog, Pages reports that no occurrences of “Appendix A” have been found.
This is just wrong. For text searching purposes, Pages should not distinguish between “Appendix A” with a regular space and “Appendix A” with a non-breaking space.
I realize that there are a number of situations where you do want Pages’ “Find/Replace” dialog to distinguish between regular spaces and non-breaking spaces, but this is not one of them, quite the contrary. This is a situation where Pages should not distinguish between the two, but it does.
Unfortunately, in this particular case I have to say that Microsoft Word gets it right. It does let you use the non-breaking space in its “Find/Replace” dialog (either with the “
^s” code or by inserting it directly), but when it comes to search for phrases such as “Appendix A,” it finds all occurrences of it, whether they use a regular space or a non-breaking space.
In this particular situation, Pages’ behaviour is too rigid and fails to account for the special nature of the regular space and the non-breaking spaces as “characters” in a text.
Sadly, since this is a problem that will affect regular users of the non-breaking space such as myself, and not the average English text writer, there’s little hope of seeing Apple’s developers address this in a timely manner through a bug fix.