Pages 1.0.x: Pretty dumb electronic address formatting feature

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
August 15th, 2005 • 3:39 pm

In a puzzling attempt to match Microsoft Word’s idiotic feature set, Apple’s Pages application includes a feature that automatically formats web addresses and e-mail addresses.

When you type an address such as “<>” or an e-mail address such as “<>” (with or without the enclosing symbols) in a Pages document, as soon as you add a space after the address, Pages automatically recognizes the word as an electronic address and turns it into a “live” link with underlined blue character formatting.

When you hover over the link with your mouse, the mouse pointer now turns into a hand symbol, and you can click on the address to open the site in a new web page in your browser of choice or compose a new e-mail message in your e-mail program of choice.

Unfortunately, this automatic feature is marred by at least two unacceptable flaws.

The first one is the following: if, after you’ve typed the space character that causes Pages to automatically format the address, you change your mind and delete the space to add something to the URL — for example, if you want to add “/macintosh/” to “” in order to make it “” — Pages completely fails to recognize what you’ve just done and to extend the automatic URL formatting to include the extra bit. In other words, you end up with an incomplete “live” link where, in ““, only the “” is highlighted in blue and underlined.

The second flaw is even worse. If you save the Pages document containing live links as a PDF file using Mac OS X’s built-in “Save as PDF” feature (via the “Print” dialog box), the links are indeed blue and underlined in the PDF, but they are not even live links! Clicking on them does absolutely nothing.

This is, to put it simply, pathetic.

16 Responses to “Pages 1.0.x: Pretty dumb electronic address formatting feature”

  1. vaag says:

    Actually what you did after creating the link, is change the appearance of the actual link. If you want to change the actual url you can do that in Pages’s info window > link tab
    Links do work in Adobe Reader. I’m not sure, but did links ever work in Preview?

  2. Warren Beck says:

    The links do not work in Acrobat. My understanding is that Acrobat 7 (including Reader) _recognizes_ links in the clear text. If you edit in Pages the link so that an entered URL has a non-URL label, then Acrobat won’t mark it as an active link.

    This was perhaps the second thing that I reported on the Pages Feedback page. The first thing was the inexplicable lack of exact leading in the paragraph styles.

    Pages is a crippled product. It seemed so promising to me for a while because of the efficient interface to the paragraph styles, but after working with the program for several months, I’ve been forced to abandon it. In addition to the long list of bungled features (especially the typography, paragraph leading, and bogus line breaking), the fact is that Apple isn’t maintaining the product (Pages is at version 1.01, but there are many broken features). It is a waste of time.

    My advice: pony up the $250 and get Adobe InCopy. Best purchase I’ve ever made. (Of course, you need InDesign for final layout).

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Like Warren says, the links don’t work in Adobe Reader 6. (I didn’t test earlier versions.) Adobe Reader 7.0 definitely has its own URL detection scheme, because with the links that Pages formats incorrectly, Adobe Reader 7 detects the full URL, including the section that is not part of the link in the Pages document.

    The current status of Pages is indeed problematic. Apple has to show clear commitment soon. Otherwise, they can’t expect anyone to seriously consider a switch. I realize that Microsoft themselves only update their product every 2 years or so, and don’t fix the things that are broken either — but they are not supposed to be the frame of reference here!

    InCopy? Interesting suggestion… but not really a realistic option in my line of work.

  4. vaag says:

    Reader 7 will even detect an url that’s not formatted as such, so it surely has its own detection scheme. I only tested with a complete url, not with a labeled one. I do apologize for that.
    So Pages delivers the same PDF’s as the system wide Print to PDF’s.
    I disagree that Pages formats links incorrectly. If you want to change the underlying url afterwards, you have to do that in the info/inspector window (I’m using a localized version of Pages, I’m not sure what it’s called in the English one). Within the text itself you can only change the label. Seems fair to me.

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    It’s not that I just want to change the underlying URL afterwards. I want to change the whole link. Pages’ behaviour is an “all-or-nothing” proposition. As soon as yout hit the space bar, your link is set in stone, and you have to go through a different tool (“Link › Hyperlink” in Inspector palette) if you want to make any changes.

    Imagine the following scenario: you mean to type “” but you actually type “” and the space before the “m”. This is something that can happen to any fast typist. As soon as you’ve typed the space after the “.co”, Pages formats the link, and then correcting your typing won’t do any good. You have to go through the Inspector to make any changes.

    I don’t think that’s intuitive. A writing tool should be flexible enough to allow users to correct their typos in the most intuitive way, i.e. by just backtracking and typing again.

  6. Warren Beck says:

    Adobe InCopy turns out to be a very interesting application. Out of the box, it can serve as a dedicated RTF editor; one has full control of paragraph and character styles and there is a table editor. InDesign can use InCopy documents directly, of course, with full control of layout and graphics placement; InCopy only handles in-line graphics on its own, but it can place graphics into a pre-prepared InDesign layout.

    Adobe intends InCopy to be used in a publication work-flow, but I use it as a production text editor in its stand-alone capacity. For submission of publications, I will send exported RTF documents. These documents are read without problem by Word with maintenance of style definitions.

    So, my suggestion of InCopy was in the spirit that Pierre has described in his use of Pages: a way to edit Word-compatible documents without having to use Word. Of course, InCopy costs a lot more than Pages does, and it cannot by itself do layouts, but it is is extremely robust in terms of its typography. For book writers, who just need to create RTF documents for publishers, InCopy is far superior to Word and to anything else that is currently available on the Mac OS X platform or on the Windows platform.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for the additional information about InCopy. It does sound like an intriguing solution. My concern would be about how good it is when it comes to opening existing Word documents.

  8. Warren Beck says:

    InCopy (and, for that matter, InDesign) is designed to open Word documents with perfect fidelity of the main text flow’s contents, including tables and endnotes. Since it is treated by InDesign as a “story editor” per se, InCopy does not handle placed graphics or page layouts; it obtains just the main text flow. In-line graphical elements _are_ imported by InCopy from the Word document, but they are _not_ exported back to RTF. The idea is, of course, that one would be making a one-way trip from the Word document eventually to an InDesign layout after editing in InCopy. In my workflow, this is an acceptable compromise because I handle in-line equations using character styles.

    Adobe could very easily transform InCopy into a Word killer if it provided certain types of layout for graphics in main text flows. I rather doubt that this will happen. I am happy with InCopy as it is, however, for the actual composition of text; the Story Editor view provides a text only representation of the work, and one can immediately see how this will be typeset by clicking on the Layout view tab of the working window.

  9. Pierre Igot says:

    Do you have any idea what happens to frames in Word documents? They are a major pain, and I never use them, but I always get documents that use them, and I would be concerned about what happens to them.

    The problem, as always, is that, before even considering a switch, I would have to have a list of all possible scenarios — i.e. all possible kinds of Word documents — that I might have to deal with, and to check what would happen with these Word documents in InCopy. Losing stuff in the conversion is something that I could not afford.

    In addition, there are situations where I simply have no choice but to edit in Word: when people use Word’s Track Changes feature, when people want me to translate an English document and provide a French version that uses the exact same layout, etc.

    I would also be interested in InCopy’s flexibility when it comes to working on more than one document at the same time. And of course there is also the issue of whether InCopy documents can be indexed by Spotlight.

    Well, I suppose I should download the trial version and give it a spin :).

  10. vaag says:

    “As soon as yout hit the space bar, your link is set in stone, …”

    This is not true! As always you can simply undo you last action (with command-Z), change and hit the space bar to trigger the automatic link adding action again.

  11. Pierre Igot says:

    I don’t know of any typist who “undoes” typing a space by pressing command-Z. When I accidentally type a space and want to remove it, I press Delete. Your approach would require developing a brand new typing habit.

    Interestingly, command-Z does undo an “Insert Hyperlink” command that the user never actually selects himself. Pressing the space bar adds a space and triggers this “Insert Hyperlink” command, although of course the user has no sense of that.

    To me, this approach is too similar to Microsoft’s own crap (Word’s AutoCorrect “corrections” can also be undone with command-Z) for comfort. As a user I expect the Undo sequence to contain the sequence of actions that I triggered, and not actions that Pages triggered automatically in addition to my own actions — which takes us back to the issue of tying the automatic formatting of URLs and e-mail addresses to the insertion of a space character. I realize it’s the most “convenient” way for Apple to do it, but clearly this post shows that, unless Apple finetunes the approach to make it work better with established typing habits (deleting a space by pressing Delete), it’s an approach that won’t work all that well in the real world of real typists typing real documents.

  12. Warren Beck says:

    Pierre: InCopy doesn’t see the frames in a Word document; only the main text flow comes in, as far as I know. I think that Spotlight does not index any of the CS2 documents. I think Adobe wants users to use the new Adobe Bridge to find the documents and Version Cue to handle versioning, so they aren’t expecting users to expect Spotlight compatiblity. A third party could write a plug in for Spotlight, as the developers of Mellel did, but Adobe is going cross platform as much as possible. In fact, they are their own platform, given that Bridge is their Finder and it runs identically on Windows and Macs.

  13. vaag says:

    Oh, but you really are deleting a space! You are only typing text all the time -something that you still don’t get-, in this case typing text for a hyperlink label.
    Of course you yourself did select this behaviour of automatic link formatting. Please have a look at Pages’s preferences. If you don’t like that you can turn it off.
    To me, this behaviour is very convenient. If I don’t want to change the label I simply can type on, if I want to change it I can go back easily, and if I want to make changes to the underlying url I even can do that within the text (by undoing the action).
    If your original post shows anything, it is that you rushed it out far too quickly. You didn’t know about the link tab in the inspector, you didn’t know about this particular pref setting – otherwise you really would have mentioned them.

  14. Pierre Igot says:

    vaag: Like I’ve told you a hundred times already, if you don’t like my writing, you’re free to move on. These never-ending attempts to find flaws in my writing are getting tiring. I am all for a constructive discussion, but that’s not what you bring to the table.

    Assuming that I don’t know about certain things because I didn’t mention them is just the first level of this offensive attitude on your part. Of course I knew about the Inspector panel and about the pref setting.

    But I also know that most users never distinguish between a URL and its “label”. In other words, when they want to insert a web address in a document, they type it out in full. For them, the label and the URL are one and the same. That Pages automatically turns the URLs that they type into active links is a nice bonus, but it doesn’t change the fact that what they are doing is first and foremost typing out the URL in full.

    And when you type out something, typos and errors are common, even for good typists. And when a typist makes a typing error, his automatic behaviour is to correct it with the Delete key, not with command-Z.

    Find me a sample group of 100 word processors users and see how many of them actually distinguish between the label of a URL and the URL itself when inserting it in a word processor document, and then we’ll talk.

  15. vaag says:

    I know you don’t like to be criticized, but I am only defending my position as a reader. Expectations are pretty high if I read your heading “Pretty dumb electronic address formatting feature”. But in the end I think you don’t have a real case at all.
    See, the standard procedure (have a look at Pages’s documentation) of link formatting is “selecting, choose ‘add link’, and fill in the actual url in the inspector”.
    For the brave ones, those who know about the difference between label and link, those who don’t want to go to the inspector, or for whatever reason, Pages has an automatic link adding feature, which you can toggle on/off. This action is been triggered under certain conditions with a space. If you deliberately choose for this feature, you should know the consequences of this space: that you cannot simply undo this action with a backspace. That’s really unrealistic to think.

    Assuming that you didn’t know about these features, was because I wanted to give you the benefits of the doubt. Your statement that you knew about them, makes things even worse for you: you simply should have mentioned them. There’s no excuse for that.

  16. Pierre Igot says:

    I have nothing against criticism, I just tend to prefer it when it’s constructive. If your expectations are still high after all this time and these endless attempts to find flaws in my writing, that’s your problem, really.

    My last word on this particular topic: You might want to remember that the feature that automatically formats URLs as you type them is ON by default in Pages. Can’t blame the user for “deliberately choosing” to use that feature and not visiting the preferences to turn it off.

    And once and for all: Most word processor users that I know compose text by typing it, not by going to inspector windows or selecting menu commands. And most people type out URLs in full, simply because “live” hyperlinks are not supported reliably across applications. The very fact that Mac OS X’s own PDF engine is unable to preserve links created by Pages demonstrates this once again. Unless you type out the URL in full, a link created in Pages is useless in a PDF file.

    Now let’s move on.

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