May 20th, 2008 • 11:21 am
Word 2008 is so bad that it is driving me positively nuts. Yet I have no choice but to use it sometimes, and in such situations I need to try and reduce the mental pain as much as possible.
Inevitably, this process involves customizing Word, not to make it do things your way, but simply to make it do things the normal way, i.e. the way that every other Mac OS X application does it, which of course Word is incapable of doing on its own.
Case in point: a keyboard shortcut for the “” command. The standard behaviour in word processors and text editors for the Mac is the following.
First, you bring up the “Find/Replace” dialog box by pressing command-F. You enter your search request in the appropriate field and you start your search.
Then you need to exit the “Find/Replace” dialog box to do some editing around a found occurrence. But then you need to continue to search for other occurrences of the same search string.
Rather than bringing up the “Find/Replace” dialog box again, normally you can just hit command-G to find the next occurrence of the current search string.
Not in Word 2008, though. In Word 2008, as in previous versions of Word, the command-G shortcut is assigned to the “” command, which is marginally useful sometimes when browsing a large document, but is of course not used nearly as often as “ ” is:
Microsoft has decided that command-G shortcut should be assigned to “,” and they won’t ever change their minds. So you have to customize Word just to make it behave the normal way, i.e. use command-G as a shortcut for “ .”
“Easy,” you say. “Just go to the ‘Customize Keyboard’ dialog box, find the ‘ ’ command and assign command-G to it.” Right.
First of all, good luck finding “Customize Keyboard” dialog box. Due to Microsoft’s completely nonsensical way of naming Word’s internal commands, the “ ” command is actually listed as “EditFind,” but the “ ” command is not listed as “EditFindNext”:” in the list of commands in the “
That would be too easy. Instead, it is listed as… “RepeatFind”:
Obvious, isn’t it?
Now let’s look at the current keyboard shortcuts assigned to “RepeatFind” by default: Shift-F4, command-shift-F4, and command-option-Y. Mmm, I wonder why there are three different shortcuts here by default. Could it be that Microsoft is trying to compensate for the fact that none of these shortcuts is the expected one, i.e. command-G?
Well, they could assign a dozen different shortcuts to the command, and it still wouldn’t make it right. The expected shortcut is command-G, and that’s all there is to it. Only Microsoft is stupid enough to persist in refusing to use the standard shortcut here.
So now all you have to do is add the command-G shortcut to the list, right? When you try to assign command-G to the “RepeatFind” command, Word will warn you that the shortcut in question is already assigned to the “ ” command:
But as soon as you assign it to “RepeatFind” instead, it will no longer be assigned to “EditGoTo,” right?
Wrong! Even after you’ve assigned command-G to “RepeatFind,” if you return to your normal Word environment and type command-G, you will still get… the “Go To” dialog box.
And if you look at the “” menu where the “ ” and “ ” commands are, you’ll see that command-G is still listed as the shortcut for “ ”
In addition, if you customize the menu via “RepeatFind”), and then look at the “ ” menu, you will see this:” (in the “ ” menu) by adding the “ ” command (in that customization interface, it is called “ ” and not “
That, even though the command-G shortcut is clearly listed as one of the shortcuts assigned to “RepeatFind,” a.k.a. “Find Next”:
So what’s going on exactly here? You think that maybe the keyboard shortcut change has not “taken,” so you quit and relaunch Word, just in case. No dice. command-G still brings up the “Go To” dialog box. Grrr.
So now you take your investigation to the next level and check what keyboard shortcuts are listed under “EditGoTo” in the “Customize Keyboard” dialog:
What? command-G is not there! The only shortcut listed is F5! And yet when you hit command-G in the Word environment, it definitely brings up the “Go To” dialog. And the command-G shortcut is listed next to the “ ” menu item in the “ ” menu! And Word definitely warns you about command-G being the current shortcut for “EditGoTo” when you try to add it to the shortcuts for “RepeatFind.” How is this possible?
Ah, but Microsoft wouldn’t be Microsoft if they hadn’t made things even more complicated… See, what they don’t tell you is that there are two ways to assign shortcuts in Word for Mac. One is the through the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box. The other one is through the… “Customize Toolbars and Menus” dialog box.
Go to the “Customize Toolbars and Menus” dialog box and right-click on the “ ” command in the “ ” menu (the one for customization purposes, not the real one):
This will bring up another dialog box for the “properties” of this particular menu command:
(If you are wondering, yes, this is the default position for the properties dialog box: right underneath the floating “” menu. Nice touch.)
Notice anything in that last screen shot? Look carefully. There is one small detail that makes all the difference in the world. And that detail is… the “&” symbol in the “Go To” name for the command.
What do you think this “&” means? Well, it’s Microsoft’s shorthand for “Screw those Mac users, we are going to use some Windows-like keyboard shortcuts here and too bad if it does not mean anything to anyone in the Mac environment.”
See, in the Windows world they have this convention where one of the letters in the command’s name is used as the shortcut for the command, with the alt key. This letter is usually underlined in the menu label itself. This convention does not exist in the Mac world at all, but instead of eliminating it altogether, Microsoft’s engineers decided that it would be a good idea to introduce it as a separate method to assign keyboard shortcuts in the Mac environment, albeit in a way that interferes with the normal way of assigning shortcuts, i.e. through the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that putting “&” before the “G” in the “Go To” command name in the properties dialog box is the equivalent of assigning… the command-G shortcut to the command.
And of course, in order to make sure that the annoyance level reaches maximum impact for Mac users, Microsoft’s engineers have decided to make shortcuts defined this way supersede the shortcuts defined via the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box. In other words, even if you assign the command-G shortcut to another command in the the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box, the command-G shortcut assigned using the “&” method will take precedence.
In order to get rid of it, the only solution is to delete the “&” itself in the properties dialog for the menu command in the “Customize Toolbars and Menus” dialog. Simple enough once you know it… but this Word “feature” probably would win handily in a “least discoverable feature” competition for Microsoft Word on the Mac.
Once you delete the “&,” as if by magic, everything changes:
“Find Next” now has the correct command-G shortcut and it actually works as a shortcut for the command.
You’ll also note that “Customize Keyboard” dialog.” no longer has any shortcut listed next to it in the “ ” menu, even though the F5 shortcut is still assigned to it in the “
Obviously, Microsoft simply cannot be bothered to display function-key-based keyboard shortcuts. That would be too easy. That would be too Mac-like. Microsoft don’t do easy. They don’t do “Mac-like.” They do “as little Mac-likeness as we can get away with.” And obviously they can get away with a lot in today’s software market. Otherwise they would be out of business altogether, with such poor products.
So after all this I have finally managed to make Word behave normally when it comes to the shortcut for the “” command. The fun aspect of it is that I will probably have to go through all of it again by the time Word 2012 comes out, because they will probably have found yet another way to screw us and force us to reconfigure everything. (I already had to go through all this a few years ago, with the previous version of Word.) At least by having written a blog post about it I will have some trace of what I did the previous time that I can refer to, and maybe it will be slightly less painful.