March 30th, 2007 • 4:54 pm
This is further evidence (if it was needed) of the utter lack of polish of the supposedly “mature” applications that are part of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac OS X.
It’s very easy to reproduce. Open a new blank document in Excel and select the first cell in the spreadsheet.
Using the “Alignment and Spacing” section of Excel’s Formatting Palette, apply the “Wrap text” option to the selected cell:
This is supposed to ensure that, when the text entered in the cell is longer than what can be displayed in the cell in its current size, Excel wraps the text within the width of the cell and automatically increases the height of the cell by the number of lines that are needed to show the the text in full.
Now, in another application, select a string of text that you know will be longer than what would fit in this particular cell with its current text formatting options and size. In this example, I typed “Lousy text wrap mechanism” in BBEdit and selected and copied that text.
I then went back to my Excel spreadsheet and pasted the text into the cell with the “Wrap text” option checked. And here’s what happened:
As you can see, Excel pasted the text using the cell’s default text formatting options, but completely neglected to adjust the cell’s height in order to show the wrapped text!
Why did this happen? In my opinion, it’s because, when they implemented the text wrap mechanism in Excel, Microsoft’s developers only made sure that it worked properly when people enter text in cells manually by typing it out—and completely “forgot” to make it also work automatically when people enter text in cells by pasting it from the Clipboard.
Now, you can actually force Excel to adjust the cell’s height by first double-clicking on the cell as if you wanted to edit its contents, which forces Excel to display the text in full:
And then you just need to exit the cell by clicking elsewhere or tabbing to the next cell:
As you can see, by pretending to edit the cell’s contents and then exiting the cell manually, you actually trigger the text wrap mechanism, which finally kicks in as it would have if you had typed the text out manually.
But really, it’s very sloppy on Microsoft’s part. Copying and pasting is a perfectly natural and normal way to enter text in any application, including Excel. By failing to implement a text wrap mechanism that properly supports this very common mode of text entry, Microsoft’s developers just show how far removed they are from the reality of day-to-day computing.
And by leaving this bug unfixed in a supposedly very mature product that they have had time to polish and fine-tune for years, they show that they simply do not care.
(If you need further evidence that they don’t care, check this post about the ugly white smears that Excel still displays around anti-aliased text when it’s highlighted. Do you think that this will finally be fixed in the next version of Office for Mac OS X due out this year? I have serious doubts. After all, it’s only been five years since Apple introduced Quartz Text Smoothing and Microsoft supposedly embraced it in its own applications.)