Pages 2: Does have a ‘Sort’ command after all (sort of)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
March 16th, 2006 • 10:38 am

A while back, I complained that Apple’s Pages didn’t have a command for sorting paragraphs of text or table rows in alphabetical order. As per usual, I also submitted an “Enhancement Request” to Apple via the Bug Reporter.

Today, I got a slightly offensive response where “engineering” chides me for not looking hard enough and asks me if, “by any chance,” I tried the “sort column arrows in the table inspector.

So I went back to Pages and sure, enough, there are “sort arrows” somewhere in the table inspector. The trouble is that they are found under a tab labelled “Numbers.”

I don’t know about you, but when I look for a command to sort text in alphabetical order, I don’t spontaneously look under something called “Numbers.”

Then there is the slightly problematic fact that I was actually looking for a command to sort paragraphs of text, not table rows. And, unfortunately, as it turns out, these “sort arrows” in the “Numbers” tab in the table inspector do work for sorting text alphabetically as well, but only text in table rows.

In other words, if you just want to sort paragraphs of text outside a table, you are out of luck. Microsoft Word’s “Sort…” command might also be found under the “Table” menu, but at least it also works when applied to regular paragraphs of text outside a table.

Couple this with the fact that, as far as I can tell—then again, maybe I’m just not looking hard enough—there is no command for converting paragraphs of text to table rows or vice versa, and the end result is that the “sort arrows” in Pages are not exactly a hugely useful feature.

It should also be noted that the interface for this sort command is pretty bad. Here’s what it looks like and what the tool tip blurb says:

Sort arrows

Based on this, you would think that these sort arrows would work on the current selection, right? Well, in my experience, this is simply not the case. Regardless of which cells I select in my table, Pages sorts the entire table, either in ascending or in descending order. There is no way to only sort a specific column.

I don’t mind Apple’s engineers chiding me when I miss something obvious that is working perfectly fine “as expected.” But that’s hardly the way that I would describe Pages’s sort feature.

7 Responses to “Pages 2: Does have a ‘Sort’ command after all (sort of)”

  1. Warren Beck says:

    Pierre: the most significant thing about this interaction with “engineeering” is that they are reading your blog! You’ve made contact with the mother ship. Maybe they will pay attention. But just like the MacBU at Microsoft, it seems that “engineering” is insulted by your valid criticism. I think that rather than being insulted, they should try to fix these problems.

    Contrast the behavior of Apple and Microsoft to that of small Mac developers, who make a lot of small fixes and frequently release incremental updates for their apps. You’re not going to see an update for Pages until January 2007, when you can pony up for iWork ’07. The real cost of using iWork is actually comparable to using MS Office, which is only updated every three or four years. But we should expect better performance from Apple.

  2. danridley says:

    Warren: Pierre mentioned that the response came via the Bug Reporter, not via Apple engineers reading the blog. That’s one of the things I love about Pierre, that he submits all of these things as bug reports, rather than just complaining on a blog and hoping Apple notices, like many critics.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Warren: Dan is right, the immense majority of the feedback I get from Apple is through Bug Reporter and the AppleSeed program. I sometimes include a link to one of my blog entries in my bug report to further illustrate a point, but that doesn’t seem to be leading to any kind of sustained readership :).

    I do get the occasional e-mail out of the blue from an Apple engineer who’s seen one of my blog items about a specific topic, but as soon as I start providing them with further information, they tend to become silent. Either they have attention span issues, or they are simply unable to make the problems in question a priority.

  4. jacobolus says:

    You might try WordService, which among other things has a sort lines service.

  5. Warren Beck says:

    [Pierre (and Dan): Sorry, in skimming the post, I didn’t catch the detail that the contact was triggered by the bug-reporter report.]

    It would be a good thing if Apple’s engineers _were_ to read Pierre’s blog. They might obtain a lot of insight as to how their apps work in the real world, on real work. I think that automated testing, as used by Microsoft and (probably) Apple, can return only so much information. There is no substitute for torture tests by real (and knowledgable) users on real work. I think that Apple should hire PIerre as a consultant, but at the very least they should read his blog, since they would so obtain a lot of very good information based on PIerre’s hard work and obvious experience.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Jacobolus: Thanks for the tip! Because of the lack of support for Mac OS X services in many Carbon applications, I simply have never developed the habit of actually using them when and where they can be used, i.e. in a Cocoa application such as Pages. Indeed, it’s a perfectly good solution for my problem.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    Warren: In my experience with the AppleSeed program, it is very difficult to actually get heard. AppleSeed is mostly for beta-testing products with a feature set that has pretty much already been decided (i.e. it’s mostly for fixing bugs, not for actually improving the products), but even then it can take a year or more before an obvious problem such as the bug with colour profiles and fast user switching even gets noticed, let alone fixed. As of 10.4.5, that particular bug still isn’t fixed. I first reported it in November 2004, in a beta version of 10.4.0!

    In other words, I appreciate your support, but I doubt very much anything significant will ever happen on that front. In many respects, unfortunately, Apple is a typical large corporation. As far as I can tell, they have too many other priorities, such as selling more iPods, promoting the next version of OS X, or pleasing their shareholders. It’s sad, but unfortunately true.

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