Word 2008: Shading hides paragraph mark selection highlighting

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
September 9th, 2008 • 2:16 pm

Take the following situation:

Shaded selection in Word 2008

This Word 2008 document window contains a couple of paragraphs with some shading, followed by a paragraph without shading. The paragraph marks are visible. The cursor is positioned at the beginning of the empty second paragraph, just before that paragraph’s mark.

The paragraphs also have 12 points of vertical “space after,” which typically is not included in the area covered by the paragraph’s shading at the bottom of the shaded area. This is useful here for reasons that will become immediately obvious.

Now see what happens when I press shift-Right, the keyboard shortcut to extend the current selection from the insertion point one character to the right:

Shaded selection in Word 2008

Notice anything strange? Pressing shift-Right has extended the selection by one character to the right. Since the paragraph is empty, this means that the selection now includes the paragraph mark itself.

The problem is that the selection is supposed to be highlighted using the system’s default colour for highlighting (as defined in the “Appearance” preference pane in System Preferences). On my machine, the highlight colour is a darker shade of green (darker than the default shade of sky blue that is used by Mac OS X by default).

The problem, as you can see here, is that Word 2008 simply fails to highlight the paragraph mark properly, like it’s supposed and expected to. The only way that I can tell that the paragraph mark is actually selected is that the highlight colour appears in the “space after” region underneath the paragraph, which is not covered by the paragraph’s shading. But if the paragraph didn’t have any space after, I wouldn’t see any highlight colour at all.

The paragraph mark is selected, but somehow the paragraph’s shading supersedes the selection highlighting and prevents the user from seeing what is selected.

Do I need to mention that this used to work perfectly fine in Word 2004?

See for yourself:

Shaded selection in Word 2004

OK, the highlight colour used by Microsoft in Word 2004 was black instead of the expected highlight colour defined in System Preferences, but at least you could see what was selected.

Now in Word 2008 you cannot see any longer. As soon as a section has some shading, the highlight colour fails to be displayed properly for paragraph marks in that section. (It is displayed properly for actual text.)

In other words, we can add this to the already long list of things that Microsoft’s engineers have managed to break in Word 2008 and will probably need another 8 years to fix—if they ever do fix them.

Is it a huge, deal-breaking bug? Of course not. But Microsoft’s products have thousands of such “minor” bugs which never get fixed, and each new version brings a new crop, which is added to the existing list of unaddressed bugs.

Did this happen because, in Word 2008, Microsoft finally decided to fix the highlight colour problem and replace the black selection colour with the correct selection colour? I doubt it. But I don’t really care. If it did, then it simply demonstrates that Microsoft’s engineers are incapable of fixing something without breaking something else, because they are incapable of doing the minimum amount of testing required to confirm that everything works OK.

I use Word 2008 as little as possible. But sometimes I have no choice. And of course each time I do use it, it refreshes my memory of everything that has always been wrong and will always be wrong with Microsoft’s software. It’s just sloppy work, shoddy engineering, low-quality, buggy software.


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