June 25th, 2007 • 9:45 am
I am afraid that the automatic pagination engine used by Apple’s Pages to determine what goes on what page is pretty screwed. I have already had the opportunity to discuss this in a couple of previous posts. Yesterday, however, I was able to boil the issue down to the essentials. Here is what’s going on.
The simplest way to cause Pages to start acting up is to do the following. Type a paragraph consisting of a few lines of text (any text) without any special formatting. The font face or size does not matter. Just type a simple paragraph of text, complete with paragraph break at the end. Then select the entire paragraph, including the paragraph break, and copy to the Clipboard.
Then place your insertion point after the paragraph and hit command-V repeatedly, in order to insert multiple copies of the same paragraph in your document. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of the first page. Keep pasting a few more paragraphs, in order to have a document that spans two pages.
Now go to the last paragraph on the first page and click anywhere in the paragraph, to place your insertion point there. Go to the “More” tab in the text inspector palette, and check the “Keep with following paragraph” option.
This will tell Pages that you want this last paragraph on the first page to actually stay with the following paragraph. Since the following paragraph is at the top of the next page, and there is not enough room for both paragraphs to fit at the bottom of the first page, this means that Pages has to move the last paragraph of the first page to the top of the second page—which it does.
Now click on the preceding paragraph (which is now the new last paragraph of the first page) with your mouse, and check the “Keep with following paragraph” option for that paragraph as well.
What should happen here? This paragraph should stay with the next one, which has to stay with the next one. So all three paragraphs should stay together, and, since there is no enough room for all three paragraphs at the bottom of the first page, they should all move automatically to the next page. That will leave a fairly big empty space at the bottom of the first page, but it is not enough to contain all three paragraphs kept together and besides, if I apply the “Keep with following paragraph” option to the two paragraphs, it’s my choice. It means that I want those three paragraphs to stay together, no matter what the consequences are for the rest of the document.
The trouble is here is that Pages fails to follow my instructions. Even though I have checked the “Keep with following paragraph” option for a second paragraph, Pages does not keep that second paragraph with the next one, even though that is exactly what the option says it should do.
Why does it not do this? Obviously because there is a bug in Pages’ pagination engine.
As I have already noted in a previous post, there is actually a way to force Pages to respect the options that I have applied to my text. But it involves closing the document altogether and then opening it again.
If I don’t do that, then Pages keeps apart the two paragraphs that are supposed to be kept together. Even if I try to print or export my document as PDF, Pages still fails to respect the “Keep with following paragraph” option.
I have noticed that sometimes Pages actually updates the page layout to comply with the “Keep with following paragraph” option later on, at some stage, when I continue to edit my document further down on the second page. But it’s completely unpredictable.
And it assumes that I am going to continue editing my document by typing more text. What if I apply my “keep” options later on, once I have already typed in all my text? This is, after all, a pretty normal way of operarting: You enter all your text. Then you see what it looks like and how it fits on the pages with the font settings you’ve chosen. And then you apply the “Keep with following paragraph” option and the “Keep lines together” option to some paragraphs or some styles, in order to keep certain things together that the current document pagination fails to keep together.
But if you do things this way, then you will be endlessly frustrated by Pages’ failure to respect the “Keep” options you are applying to your document. This is especially problematic when you have a document with headings and subheadings. If a heading is immediately followed by a subheading, which is then followed by a paragraph of text, you want all three elements to stay together, because it makes no sense to have the first heading at the bottom of one page and the subheading at the top of the next page, or, worse still, the heading and the subheading at the bottom of one page and the next paragraph at the top of the next page.
Yet that is exactly what happens when you apply Pages’ “Keep” options to your text after entering it, or even sometimes while entering it.
It really is not very professional on the part of Apple’s engineers to have implemented such a flaky pagination engine in Pages, especially since the application fancies itself as a page layout tool as well. The problem was already there in Pages 1.0. I reported on it and submitted bug reports on it then. The problem is still there in Pages 2.0, and Pages 2.0 has not been updated in ages, with no indication of a 3.0 upgrade coming from Apple any time soon.
It’s all very disappointing, and very frustrating when you are trying to compose quality documents with what is otherwise a fairly decent word processor/page layout application.