Word 2004: Keyboard shortcuts for text navigation and first paragraph after a manual page break

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 20th, 2004 • 12:13 am

I’ve already reported that Microsoft changed the keyboard shortcuts for navigating and selecting text. This change is obviously meant to bring Word in line with other Mac OS X applications.

Unfortunately, as a heavy user of these shortcuts, I cannot help but note that some things have not changed and are as irritating as ever.

For example, say you have a document with manual page breaks and you are editing it in Normal view mode. In order to jump from paragraph to paragraph with the keyboard, you can use the option-Up and option-Down keyboard shortcuts, which take you automatically to the beginning of the previous or next paragraph. Well, most of the time.

If you use these shortcuts to go to the first paragraph immediately following a manual page break, you’ll see that the the cursor jumps, not to the beginning of this paragraph, but before the manual page break that comes immediately before it.

So if you are trying to develop automatisms for navigating and selecting paragraphs of text with the keyboard (rather than using the mouse), you’re out of luck. Option-Up or Option-Down will always take you to the beginning of the previous/next paragraph — except when this paragraph comes immediately after a manual page break. There’s no way that one can get used to this inconsistency.

Why does Word do this? Obviously because of that inherent flaw in the very design of the software which I already discussed the other day. For some reason, Word treats each manual page break as a character that’s part of the paragraph that follows it. That’s also why manual page breaks take on the style of the following paragraph and look weird when that style includes a left indent.

When it comes to navigating and selecting text, however, we are no longer talking about a purely cosmetic issue. We’re talking about a serious design flaw that forces the user to constantly adjust to a totally inconsistent behaviour.

If you switch to Page Layout view mode instead of Normal view mode, it’s even worse: when you press Option-Up to jump to the first paragraph following a manual page break, Word actually jumps to the end of the previous page! Argh.

Of course, some rather arrogant MVP that I know would probably argue that “professional” Word users like me should never use manual page breaks in the first place. And indeed, the problem doesn’t appear to affect manual section breaks. On the other hand, it does also affect manual column breaks.

The problem is that avoiding the use of manual page breaks and column breaks entirely is very difficult to do in Word, because the features that can be used to achieve this — such as “Keep with next” and “Keep together options”, and styles that include page break specifications in their definitions — are so poorly implemented, so unreliable, and so insufficient.

But, even more important, there is absolutely no reason that manual page breaks and column breaks should be avoided in the first place. Even a high-end page layout program such as InDesign fully supports them (and of course, causes no such weirdness when navigating through paragraphs of text with the keyboard).

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