Word X: Cutting and pasting search strings

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
April 22nd, 2003 • 12:53 am

There are several issues with Word X’s Find/Replace dialog. I just encountered one that is pretty representative of the overall carelessness in the design of the application.

I have a document with several numbered lists of items. The people who wrote the document used Word’s automatic numbering features, which I carefully avoid myself. (I have my own incremental “Bullets” styles and the number of times I would need automatic renumbering is not high enough to justify the heavy cost of trying to make Word’s feature work properly.)

I needed to see how many times a list item already appeared in another list in the same document. (I knew I had seen it before.) So I selected the beginning of the list item (enough words to make a unique string), copied it to the Clipboard, opened the “Find” dialog, and pasted the text. I clicked on “Find” — and Word said there were no results. I was sure that there were more occurrences of the exact same item.

I looked at what I had pasted in more carefully, and there it was: Word had included the automatic number that came before the list item in question as part of the text string! In other words, instead of having “[list item]” in the “Find” field, I had “3) [list item]”. (It was item #3 in this particular list.)

Never mind the fact that I had not intentionally selected the item number. As a matter of fact, you cannot select it. Since Word handles it automatically, it is not part of the text you typed. It is actually “stored” in the invisible paragraph mark at the end of the list item — but the thing is, I had not selected the entire list item, only the first few words. So I had not selected the invisible paragraph mark. Word included the item number in the Clipboard just the same.

This simply does not make any sense. Of course, the problem is that Word tries to “guess” what the user wants — and uses some kind of trick to include the automatic numbering as manually typed characters. I can see that this could be of use if you wanted to paste the text in another application that doesn’t recognize Word’s automatic numbering — but it should not happen internally within Word, especially not if the entire list item has not been selected!

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.