Word 2008: Pathetic support for Mac OS X window layering

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
June 4th, 2008 • 6:10 pm

This is truly appalling. Try the following experiment.

Launch Word 2008 and open two separate document windows side by side in Word.

Then launch Mac OS X’s Preview application and open a document window in that application (a PDF file, for example).

Then click on one of the Word 2008 document windows in the background to bring it to the foreground.

In Mac OS X, this is supposed to bring the corresponding Word 2008 document window to the foreground and to cause the system to switch to the Word 2008 application, but the other Word 2008 document window (the one that you didn’t click on) should stay behind the Preview document window, even though Word 2008 is not the foreground application.

And it does. So far, so good.

Now in the “Word” menu, choose “Hide Word” to hide the application and all its windows.

Then click on the Word icon in the Dock again to make the hidden application and its two document windows visible again.

Then click on the Preview document window in the background to bring it to the foreground and switch to Preview.

Then click on one of the Word document windows in the background to bring it to the foreground and switch back to Word 2008.

What should happen here is, as indicated above, that the Word document window that you clicked on should come to the foreground and that Mac OS X should switch to Word, but the other Word document window should stay behind the Preview document window.

Only this time it does not. As soon as you click on one of the Word document windows, both document windows come to the foreground—or, more accurately, the one you clicked on comes to the foreground, and the other one comes before the Preview document window, in the background.

This is completely, utterly wrong. And yet it is perfectly reproducible. All it takes is a single use of the “Hide Word” command.

Microsoft’s Mac engineers are completely, utterly incompetent. That’s all there is to it. They are incapable of ensuring that their applications comply even with the most fundamental rules of operation in Mac OS X. As soon as a new version comes out, you can be sure that it breaks a whole slew of established rules in the OS, even if the previous version used to comply with them just fine. And it’ll be the same story the next time around. There is no hope.

Do I really need to explain why complying with Mac OS X’s standard rules for window layering is paramount? No, I don’t. It’s obvious. It’s fundamental. It is what enables people to work with a multitude of windows even on a small screen. Without proper window layering, you cannot keep windows in the order you desire.

Of course things used to be different in the classic Mac OS. Bringing an application to the foreground used to automatically bring all its windows to the foreground. I know that. But that was then, and this is now. Apple changed the rules, and there were good reasons for changing them!

But Microsoft does not care. They constantly break the rules, using excuses such as “opportunity cost” to justify their incompetence and their total lack of effort. It is hopeless.

2 Responses to “Word 2008: Pathetic support for Mac OS X window layering”

  1. kcds says:

    Tell it, brother. I have never understood how Word (and MS’s other shiznitware) can have gotten away with being so bad for so long, but it has.

    I have recently updated to Office 2008 in the hopes it would be faster than 2004 under Rosetta. Well, of course, no such luck. Thankfully, the 12.1 and 12.1.1 service packs have fixed some of the more egregious bugs, but, yeah, it is still, by any objective measure, a horrible pile of crap (that’s a technical term).

    For example – and I apologize, but I have not yet been able to systematically catalog the circumstances when these behaviors occur, other than to say all the damn time – Word 2008’s interaction with Spaces is nothing short of bizarre. I have all the components of Office 2008 set to reside in and only in space #4, yet Word seems to periodically like to migrate its open docs to other spaces, like #2. Apparently, all the cool apps hang out in space #2, and it just wants to be part of the fun.

    I will acknowledge that it seems for the most part that either 12.1 or 12.1.1 fixed the worst of the Exposé bugs (hit F10, click on a window, it comes to the top of the pile but it doesn’t have focus so when you go to type in it, another window leaps up instead), but Spaces just seems to complete baffle the Redmond residents.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Due to well-documented issues, I have avoided using Spaces so far myself (although most of the bugs appear to have been fixed, there are still fundamental problems with the application-centric approach). But of course I am not surprised that Microsoft does not support this feature properly. If they can’t even support a Mac OS X feature that is as old as the OS itself, such as the window layering scheme described above, it’s hardly surprising that they can’t support a brand new new window management scheme.

    I just hope that Apple continues to develop iWork, hopefully at a higher pace, so that Microsoft’s products continue to slide farther and farther into obsolescence, at least on my machines. (Just like we are saying more and more disgruntled Windows users switching to the Mac, I am seeing more and more Word users switching to Pages…) Because there really is no hope whatsoever of MS ever turning into a proper Mac OS X developer.

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