Pages 3.0: Could be more stable

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
October 22nd, 2008 • 10:47 am

Compared to the recurring nightmare known as Microsoft Word 2008, Apple’s own Pages 3.0 is a joy to use. It’s fast, it does not corrupt documents, and, for the most part, it’s reliable.

That said, I cannot help but notice that, in recent months, the application has not been as stable as it used to be, at least on my machine.

Here’s a screen shot of the list of crash logs compiled by Mac OS X’s Console application:

Pages Crashes

Now, given that I use Pages nearly every hour of every day, an average of two to six crashes per month does not sound too bad. It is, I suppose, something that I can “live with”—especially since I am a compulsive document saver. (Too many years of daily Microsoft Office use can do that to you.) These crashes, when they do happen, never cause me to lose more than a few minutes of work.

Still, I cannot help but feel that things could and should be better. One of the reasons for this feeling is that I have been using Pages since its first incarnation, and these crashes are only a fairly new problem. I don’t remember Pages 1.0 or Pages 2.0 crashing like this.

The other reason is that these crashes all share very similar features. I cannot guarantee it 100% (my memory is not that good), but I am pretty sure that all the crashes listed above have followed the exact same pattern:

  1. I switch back to Pages from another application.
  2. I open a document, look through it, and then close it.
  3. As soon as I close the document, I start hearing intensive hard disk activity.
  4. After a few seconds of hard disk activity, the Spinning Beach Ball of Death appears. The hard disk activity continues.
  5. After a few more seconds, Pages “unexpectedly quits” and I get the dialog inviting me to report the crash to Apple (which I do, each and every time).

In other words, it definitely looks like all the crashes are caused by the same problem or bug in Pages itself or in my Mac OS X environment.

Since I am not a Mac OS X engineer, I cannot really decipher the actual contents of the crash logs accessible through Console.

All I can say is that they all feature the same type of information:

Exception Codes: KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS at 0x00000000c67d792f
Crashed Thread:  0

(The actual address varies from one crash to the next, of course.)

I can also see that the crashes started in Mac OS X 10.5.2 back in March 2008 and have continued through the various Mac OS X system updates since then. (Pages itself has not been updated since March and is still at version 3.0.2.)

Why are the crashes associated with intensive hard drive activity? Is it because they have to do with the way Pages uses virtual memory? Or is there something else in my system that is causing this problem in Pages, like a conflict with another application (although it’s hard to imagine which)?

I can only speculate… But I can also say that I have been using Numbers on a daily basis for many months too, and I have only had a single crash with that application, back in May 2008. So whatever affects Pages does not seem to affect Numbers in the same way.

Like I said, I have submitted the crash report to Apple via the Mac OS X crash reporting feature each and every time, and I have always included a short paragraph explaining how it happened, with the several steps mentioned above. That’s about all I can do.

Apple does not respond to crash reports submitted that way, but I hope that they do keep track of them and that eventually they will get to the bottom of this and fix it in an upcoming version of Pages.

It’s frustrating that Pages does not get many incremental updates and that nothing seems to be happening at Apple on the iWork front for months on end, sometimes more than an year. But eventually we will get Pages 4.0 (I hope!) and then it will be time to revisit this issue and see if there is any improvement.

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