PowerPoint 2008: Sloppy selection highlighting

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
February 11th, 2008 • 12:43 pm

Take a simple text box in PowerPoint 2008 containing three words and place your insertion point at the beginning of the second word:

Text box selection in PowerPoint

Now press option-shift-Right once to extend the selection by one word to the right:

Text box selection in PowerPoint

Press option-shift-Right a second time:

Text box selection in PowerPoint

And a third time:

Text box selection in PowerPoint

What is this invisible character that PowerPoint 2008 has just added to the selection? It’s impossible to tell, since, unlike Word 2008, PowerPoint does not have a command to “show invisibles,” but my guess is that it is some kind of supposedly invisible paragraph or text box marker that contains vital information about the formatting of the text in the text box, but that the user is not supposed to see or be able to alter. Yet clearly here I can choose to either include the invisible character or not include it in my selection. What difference it makes is anyone’s guess.

What is also “interesting” is that it appears to be impossible to select that same invisible character with the mouse. If you double-click on the second word and then drag your mouse pointer to the right to try and make the same selection as above, you’ll see that you cannot. Instead, after extending the selection to the third word, if you continue to drag, PowerPoint add a tiny sliver of additional selection highlighting to the selection. Again, what this means is anyone’s guess.

But now for the icing on the cake. After extending the selection with the keyboard to include the invisible character, press option-shift-Left.

The expectation here would be that PowerPoint reverses the selection process altogether and now starts a selection before the second word and extends it to the left, to include the first word instead.

And indeed that is what PowerPoint does. Except that visually it looks like this:

Text box selection in PowerPoint

Nice one!

So now we seem to have created a discontinuous selection including the first word in the text box and the invisible character at the end. Amazing.

In actual fact, this appears to be only a visual glitch. If you leave the selection like this and switch to another application and then back to PowerPoint, you’ll notice that the selection highlighting has changed and now only includes the first word in the text box.

So, OK, maybe visual glitches are not as important as other bugs and flaws (and of course there are plenty of those in PowerPoint 2008). But still, what do this tell you about the sloppiness of Microsoft’s work? You can be sure that, if the application is visual sloppy, it is also sloppy in other, more important respects. And also, as usual, Microsoft appears utterly unable to properly hide the inner workings of its applications and make them safe from accidental user interference.

Same old story, then. Welcome to the brave new world of Office 2008–not!

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