Mac OS X: Bug with ‘Format’ menu in ‘Save As’ dialog boxes in certain Carbon applications

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 10th, 2004 • 12:12 am

One of the useful things about Acrobat Professional 6.0 (part of the Adobe CS package) is that it does a pretty decent job of exporting existing PDF files as RTF files or Word documents. (If you try to copy text from a PDF file to a Word document using the selection tool in Preview or Acrobat Reader and the Clipboard, you’re likely to encounter all kinds of problems, including malformed paragraphs, heading text with space characters between each character in each word, bad character encoding for non-ASCII characters, etc.)

Today, however, I encountered a pretty bad bug in the “Save As” dialog box that is used to export PDF files as Word documents. (Somehow, some day, software developers are going to have to come to some kind of agreement regarding what is to be considered a “Save As” action and what is to be considered an “Export” action. As far as I can tell, there is complete confusion between the two terms at present.)

The bug occurs if you try to use that “Save As” dialog box with the keyboard (with Full Keyboard Access). You can use the Tab key to navigate to the “Format” menu of options at the bottom of the dialog box. Once that menu has the blue halo indicating that it is in focus, you can press the space bar to make the menu of format options pop up. And then you can use the Up and Down cursor keys to browse the list and highlight the appropriate format, and the Return key to validate the selection.

The bug is with what happens then. Acrobat does appear to switch to the file format option that you selected, but fails to change the file extension at the end of the file name in the “Save As” field at the top (from “.pdf” to “.doc” in this case) to reflect the change in file format. So when you try to save the new file, Acrobat asks you if you want to replace it with a file by the same name, etc. It’s a complete mess.

The only way to get Mac OS X to reliably change the file extension automatically when you change the file format option in the “Format” menu at the bottom is to do so with the mouse rather than the keyboard.

Interestingly, the exact same thing happens in Word 2004 when you try to save a Word document in another format through Word’s “Save As” dialog box. So it doesn’t look like it’s a bug that’s specific to Acrobat Professional. It seems to affect other Carbon applications.

On the other hand, the bug doesn’t affect the “Save As” dialog box in TextEdit, which is a Cocoa application. But it doesn’t affect the “Save As” dialog box in Photoshop CS either, which is most definitely a Carbon application. Strange.

2 Responses to “Mac OS X: Bug with ‘Format’ menu in ‘Save As’ dialog boxes in certain Carbon applications”

  1. George Fowler says:

    I’ve noticed the behavior you describe here, but why do you think it is a bug in OS X? Seems to me that if it works in Photoshop, there must be some kind of API which is available to programmers to ensure that keyboard access to this menu triggers the extension change. The Photoshop programmers thought of it, tested it, and implemented it fully and properly. The Acrobat programmers and the Word programmers didn’t. It is is a bug, how could it work in Photoshop?

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Well, it seems to me that this is the kind of stuff that should work out of the box without any work by the programmers. If your theory is correct, then it means that OS X forces third-party developers to make sure that keyboard access triggers the extension change… Should it really require them to do so? Shouldn’t it be the default behaviour? Should there really be any situation where it does not trigger the extension change?

    So it’s a software development issue, really. The problem is that, from the point of view of the end user, it is a bug. And, well, when it comes to software, the end user is king :).

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