Pages: option-Tab causes error signal outside table cells

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
February 15th, 2006 • 3:39 pm

This is a small, but significant irritant in Pages (1 and 2) compared to Microsoft Word.

Both Word and Pages come with their own automatic bullet styles. As regular Betalogue readers know, I strongly discourage people from using Word’s automatic bullet/numbering styles, because the implementation of the feature is so buggy and so flawed.

Pages’s automatic bullet/numbering feature is somewhat better, but it’s far from perfect, and there are therefore many situations where you might still want to create a bullet list manually by inserting the bullet points yourself, followed by tab characters, in paragraphs formatted with a negative first line indent, as in the following example:

Paragraph manually formatted for bullet list

The problem is that the bullet character itself (•) is, on most keyboards, accessed using the Option key. On my Canadian CSA keyboard, it’s option-shift-8. On a US keyboard, it’s option-8.

What happens when you type a bullet followed by a tab character, which you have to do for each item in the bullet list, is that sometimes, you don’t release the Option key fast enough, which causes Pages to mistakenly believe that you’ve typed option-Tab instead of just Tab.

In Word 2004, this is not a problem, since option-Tab does the same thing as Tab in such a situation, i.e. it inserts a tab character. Indeed, in Word 2004, option-Tab is actually a shortcut to force Word to insert a tab character even in contexts where the regular Tab key does something else. For example, in tables, the Tab key causes the cursor to jump to the next table cell. In order to insert a tab character inside a table cell, you have to press option-Tab.

In Pages, unfortunately, while option-Tab is still used as a shortcut to insert a tab character when the cursor is inside a table cell, when the cursor is not inside a table cell, option-Tab simply doesn’t work at all and gives you an error sound instead of inserting a tab character.

I cannot count the number of times when I get this error signal while trying to enter list items starting with a bullet character followed by a tab, simply because I type too fast and don’t release the Option key fast enough.

Like I said, it’s a minor thing, but it becomes a major irritant when you use manually formatted bullet lists, as I do.

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