Word 2008: Buggy handling of input methods (including Spell Catcher X)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
February 7th, 2008 • 10:19 am

In rather typical fashion, Microsoft Word 2008 not only fails to fix most existing bugs and flaws with the application, but also introduces a whole new slew of bugs, in particular for users who happen to deviate ever so slightly from Microsoft’s idea of what a standard Mac OS X user is.

Here’s one that most users probably won’t notice, but that affects users who use input methods in a very significant way.

Normally, when you type text in any text editor or word processor, the text editor or word processor in question is smart enough to coalesce multiple keystrokes into larger chunks for undoing purposes.

In other words, if, after typing “undoing purposes” in your favourite word processor or text editor, you decide to undo what you’ve just done (i.e. your typing) using the universal “Undo” command (command-Z), your word processor or text editor will not undo your keystrokes one by one.

When you press command-Z, instead of just undoing the very last keystroke (the “s” in “purposes” in this example), the application actually undoes a more substantial chunk of your typing.

The exact amount of text that the application “undoes” depends on the application you are using. But typically it amounts to a few words or a sentence or two. And this is probably the most appropriate compromise in most situations. You don’t want to “undo” too much text, because the user might not want to have to retype a whole bunch of words. But you also don’t want to “undo” too little text, because otherwise this will force the user to use multiple “Undo” commands to undo the amount of typing that he wants to undo.

When using Word 2008 with a normal keyboard layout (“Canadian French – CSA” in my case, “U.S.” for most English-speaking North American readers), the “Undo” command in Word works as expected. A single “Undo” command removes the last chunk of text that you’ve just typed.

However, let’s say that, instead of using a normal keyboard layout, you are actually using an input method, such as the Kotoeri input method for Japanese users or the Spell Catcher input method for Spell Catcher X users:

Input methods in System Preferences

If you are using such an input method, then Word 2008’s undoing sequence totally falls apart. Instead of undoing your typing chunk by chunk, if you use the “Undo” command after entering some text with an input method, Word 2008 actually undoes your typing keystroke by keystroke. In other words, just to undo the typing of “undoing purposes,” for example, you have to press command-Z sixteen times!

Of course, like I said, this is a problem that only affects users of input methods. I happen to be an avid Spell Catcher X user, so this affects me directly. It also directly affects users of Japanese or Chinese input methods.

Does Microsoft care about the needs of these categories of users? If this bug is any indication, they most definitely do not. Otherwise, they would never have let such an ugly bug slip through.

But it’s hard enough to get Microsoft to care about the needs of English-speaking Mac OS X users using a plain vanilla keyboard layout such as “U.S.” I guess other categories of users are just supposed to put up with Word’s idiocy and smile.

Thanks, Microsoft.

One Response to “Word 2008: Buggy handling of input methods (including Spell Catcher X)”

  1. Arden says:

    Besides Microsoft applications being stupid, the glaring exception to the “don’t remove just one at a time” school of thought is TextMate. It’s really annoying when you have to go back a ways, because you have to undo every letter and character one at a time.

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