Word X: Poor support for Mac OS X application switching

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 9th, 2003 • 5:10 am

Mac OS X introduced a new behavior for application switching in which clicking on the window of a document belonging to a background application only brings that document window to the foreground, and not all the other windows belonging to that application as well at the same time, as used to be the case in the classic Mac OS.

(Some people don’t like this new behavior and use a variety of third-party utilities to make Mac OS X revert back to the old behavior. I personally prefer a document-centric approach to computing and this new behavior suits me just fine.)

I suppose that it was unavoidable that Microsoft would fail to implement proper and reliable support for this behavior in the Mac OS X version of their flagship word processor Word X.

Word X seems to support the behavior properly. If you launch Word and open a couple of document windows and switch to another application and click on one of the Word document windows to bring it to the foreground, the other document window stays in the background.

If you work on Word documents for an extended period of time, however, without quitting and relaunching Word every half-hour (which seems to be the recommended approach if you want to achieve a certain level of reliability with this lousy application), then sooner or later you’ll discover that Word ceases to comply with the rule and reverts to the classic Mac OS behavior. It does so in a weird kind of way, with some background document windows only, and sometimes the document windows in question only join the active one after a second or two — but it definitely happens to me on a regular basis, and the only solution is to quit Word and relaunch it and reopen the document windows.

It’s as if Word needed to be “flushed” on a regular basis, much in the same way that the classic Mac OS itself needed to be restarted just about every day if you didn’t want the performance and stability of your system to degrade too much and make things too unreliable.

Come to think of it, it’s probably because Mac OS X is so stable now and doesn’t require daily restarts that the flaws of Microsoft applications have become so glaring. Word can no longer bring the entire system down and hide behind the cloud of general system flakiness, and is exposed as the unreliable Mac application that it has always been.

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