Word X: Pathetic performance

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 8th, 2003 • 11:15 pm

I must say that I am utterly disgusted by the fact that I now use one of Apple’s most powerful computers (a dual 1.25 GHz G4), and Microsoft Word X is still plagued by highly irritating performance issues.

More specifically, the stalls that I used to experience all the time running Word X on my previous machine (a G4/450 MHz) are still there. They might not be as noticeable on the new G4 as they used to be on the old one, but they are most definitely there, especially with long documents.

You type something, or click on a button, and… nothing happens, for one, two, three seconds, sometimes longer! Word literally stalls right before processing your last keystroke or mouse click. It’s suspended in UI limbo.

You can cut the stalling short by typing something on the keyboard or moving the mouse — which proves that Word is not busy doing something, it’s just busy doing nothing. But even that is no workaround. There is no way that forcing Word to wake up all the time is conducive to a smooth, real-time, flowing computing experience. It’s anything but.

Everything else is running smoothly on my machine. Word is the only program affected. And it’s a bloody word processor! I don’t do any real-time video processing, but the machine I am using is a machine that has enough processing power to render a whole slew of advanced video effects in real time. But it’s not even able to do the simplest of things, which is to INSERT characters in a document as I type them, or respond to a click on a button right away.

For example, after HAVING typed a fairly long document, I usually run Word’s spell-checking tool as an additional precaution (after HAVING used Spell Catcher X for most of my spell-checking and shorthand inserting on-the-fly). What prompted me to write this blog item is that I was trying to use Word’s spell-checker on a 75-page, 25,000-word document with a handful of graphics and tables. Nothing fancy. Not exactly a monstrous document (approximately 600 KB).

So I have the “Spelling and Grammar” window open (never mind that I never use the grammar tool), and Word is checking my French-Canadian spelling. Of course, it is idiotically chocking on each and every occurrence of “etc.”, as usual. So I have to click on “Ignore” to force it to ignore this correct spelling again and again (“Ignore All” won’t work). And that’s when I notice the stalls: Word finds an occurrence of “etc.” and displays the corresponding portion of the document in the main document window, I click on “Ignore” in the “Spelling and Grammar” window and… nothing happens. One second. Two seconds. Nothing. Then all of a sudden Word wakes up and jumps to the next occurrence. Of course, since I am impatient, I try to click on “Ignore” repeatedly as fast as I can for all these occurrences of “etc.”. But Word won’t let me, because it regularly stalls and doesn’t do anything for one, two, three seconds or more before it finally processes my mouse click.

How pathetic is this?

I know that some people are blaming these stalls on Mac OS X’s Unix underpinnings. But then — why is Word the only text-based application affected? There are no stalls in Mail, TextEdit, Safari, BBEdit, anywhere else!

And this is supposed to be the flagship product of a Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft which “gets” the Mac and has fully embraced Mac OS X. They can’t even get the most fundamental aspects of their word processor right!


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