iWork ’08: Don’t trust Pages with batch Find/Replace operations

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
April 16th, 2008 • 2:55 pm

I have already written a post about the fact that Pages’s Find/Search feature suffers from one truly awful limitation, which is that the “Replace All” button always applies to the entire document, regardless of what the current selection is.

This means that you cannot do a Replace All operation that applies to a specific section of the document only, without first copying that section of the document to another blank document, and then copying the section back to the document once the Replace All operation is complete. This is utterly clumsy and not worthy of a quality word processor.

I have also written posts about the many difficulties with punctuation characters in the Find/Replace dialog box, including smart quotes and non-breaking spaces.

Sadly, that is not the end of it. Pages’s Find/Replace dialog box suffers from yet more problems which can make it very dangerous to use it for batch Find/Replace operations in a document.

Here is an easily reproducible problem. First download this sample file called “ParagraphStyles.pages.zip”:


Now decompress the Zip file and open the resulting Pages document titled “ParagraphStyles.pages” in Pages 3.0.x.

Once you have opened the document in Pages, invoke the Find/Replace dialog box, switch to the “Advanced” tab and enter the following Find/Replace request. In the “Find” field, enter:

[same as English]¶

where “” is a paragraph mark. (In order to enter a paragraph mark on the Find/Replace dialog box, use option-Return.)

In the “Style” pop-up menu for the “Find” field, choose the style called “Translator’s Note.”

Then in the “Replace” field enter:

[same as English]¶

where “” is, again, a paragraph mark. In the “Style” pop-up menu for the “Replace” field, choose the style called “List 1.”

These settings are obviously for the following purpose: to change the paragraph style of all occurrences of “[same as English]¶” (with paragraph mark) from “Translator’s Note” to “List 1.”

Now click on either “Replace All” or “Next” followed by “Replace & Find.”

Notice anything? Pages does indeed change the paragraph style of all occurrences of “[same as English]¶” (with paragraph mark) from “Translator’s Note” to “List 1,” but it also does something that is completely unwanted and highly undesirable: it changes the style of the paragraph following[same as English]¶” from its current style (“Work Heading 3” in this case) to… the “Translator’s Note” style!

This is totally unacceptable. Yes, the scenario described above is a bit complicated, but the bug itself is not really all that complicated or difficult to reproduce. And it is a pretty serious bug when it comes to paragraph styles.

I know that I can easily select all occurrences of a given style and change them to another style, without even using the Find/Replace dialog box, but this is not what I am trying to do here. I am trying to find only specific occurrences of a given style, i.e. occurrences with a specific text string and a paragraph mark at the end.

The existence of such a bug—and of the other bugs and flaws described in previous posts—essentially means that Pages cannot be trusted when it comes to doing slightly complex Find/Replace operations. And that is a significant flaw for a word processor.

Since Pages’s main competitor, Microsoft Word, can rarely be trusted for such operations either (I speak from personal experience here), this means that we effectively have no alternative. And since these bugs are not immediately obvious, there is also little hope of getting the developers to fix them.

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