Word 2004: Inappropriate click-through behaviour

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 15th, 2004 • 11:15 pm

This picture is part of the bottom edge of an inactive document window in Microsoft Word:

Inactive window in Word

When you have several document windows open in Word, the bottom edge of the foremost window has a number of active controls that can be used to access certain features. Here’s what the same window looks like when it’s in the foreground:

Active window in Word

As you can see, there are a number of active controls here: the four view mode buttons on the left-hand side, and then a row of rectangles that are both status lines (the first one, visible here, gives you the page number of the page you are currently viewing, the next one gives you the position of your insertion point, etc.) and actual buttons that you can click on to trigger certain commands. For example, if you click on the rectangle where the page number is displayed, Word opens the “Go To” dialog box where you can type a page number to jump directly to a specific page.

But when the window is in the background, all these controls are — or at least look as if they are — disabled. In other words, clicking on this inactive area of a background document window with the mouse should only have one effect, which is to bring that background window to the foreground. That’s it.

The truth is, however, that, in Microsoft Word, if you try to bring a background document window to the foreground by clicking on the area of the window next to the view mode buttons, where the rectangular status buttons are when the window is in the foreground, Word not only brings the window to the foreground, but also registers your click as a click on the corresponding rectangular button!

This is totally misleading. The buttons are disabled when the window is in the background, so they should not respond to a mouse click. In fact, the view mode buttons behave properly. They do not register your click. The problem only affects the rectangular buttons next to the view mode buttons.

To add insult to injury, when a Word document window is in the background, you can’t even see these rectangular buttons anymore. The area next to the four view mode buttons is a single blank rectangle which no longer has the subdivisions that mark the separations between the several rectangular buttons. Yet they still respond to mouse clicks as if they were both visible and in the foreground!

And that’s not all. The problem also affects the horizontal scroll bar just above these rectangular buttons. Here again, the scroll bar looks disabled when the window is in the background, but if you click in that area to bring the window to the foreground, Word brings the window to the foreground and scrolls to the right as if you had clicked on the scroll bar. Eek.

This is a huge interface blunder. It was there in Word X. It’s still there in Word 2004. And it’s a typical example of Microsoft’s inattention to detail.

One Response to “Word 2004: Inappropriate click-through behaviour”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    For some reason, this bad click-through behaviour only affects switching documents when within Word. If you are clicking on this area of the window from another application, Word doesn’t register the click through click-through.

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