Pages 2: Problems with coloured text in table cells

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
March 9th, 2006 • 3:04 pm

Pages 2 seems to have a double standard when it comes to handling coloured text in tables.

When you apply a colour to a text selection in a regular block of text outside a table, Pages correctly detects the colour as a formatting option at character level and changes the little triangles next to the current character style and the current paragraph style to red. This indicates that the current selection now has some manual formatting (the colour) on top of the paragraph and character formatting options defined in the styles.

When this happens, you can click on the red triangle and ask Pages to redefine the style based on the selection (i.e. add the colour to the definition of the style) or to create a new style based on the selection (i.e. create a new style with the same formatting attributes plus the colour).

However, when you try to do the same thing with text in a table cell, it doesn’t work.

First of all, if you select more than one table cell and try to apply a colour to the selection, it fails—whereas if you select more than one table cell and then try to apply a character formatting option such as italics or bold, it works just fine, i.e. Pages applies the character formatting option to the text in all in the selected table cells.

If you select a range of text in a single table cell and apply a colour to it, it works. But then the little triangle mentioned above only turns red for the current paragraph style, not for the current character style. This means that you can redefine the paragraph style for your table cell text to include the colour attribute, but that you cannot redefine the character style for your table cell text to include the colour.

(This whole issue is separate from the process of applying colour to the table cell borders or background, which is done through the “Graphic” tab of the inspector palette in Pages.)

I suspect it has something to do with the way Pages handles table cell selection. See, when you select more than one cell in a table in Pages, Pages no longer uses the selection colour to highlight the text in the cell, as Microsoft Word does. Instead, it uses a yellow colour to highlight the borders of the selected cells.

It’s an interesting concept, because it makes a distinction between selecting table cells and selecting the text in table cells—something that Microsoft Word has never been able to do properly and that has always been confusing in Word. (See this post, for example.)

Unfortunately, it means that, when the selection includes more than one table cell, there is no longer an accurate indication of what’s actually selected, and what will happen when formatting changes are made that would affect the text in the cells rather than the table itself. (For example, when you select more than one table cell and change the font to italics, Pages changes the text in the selected cells to italics, even though that text is not visibly selected with the highlighting colour.)

Obviously, this selection scheme also introduces some inconsistencies, such as the one described here, which cannot really be justified.

Another illustration of the problem is what happens when you click on a table border itself to select it. If, at the time you do it, the cursor is currently somewhere inside a table cell, then the current style of the text in the table cell is highlighted in blue in the “Styles” drawer. But after you have clicked on the table border itself (which then becomes highlighted in yellow), Pages fails to deselect the style in the drawer, even though it is no longer relevant. (The table border itself doesn’t have a paragraph style!)

This is just sloppy on Apple’s part.

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