Pages ’08: Improving performance by hiding ‘Info’ tab in inspector

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
December 10th, 2008 • 12:13 pm

Occasionally, I have to edit an existing document in Pages that, for some reason, causes the application’s performance while typing or selecting/editing text to drop significantly, to the point that there is a very noticeable delay between the moment I type or select something and the moment the typed text or selection highlighting appears on the screen.

This is rather annoying and unacceptable in a modern word processor running on a fairly powerful machine (Mac Pro with 5 GB of RAM).

For a while, I thought it was a flaw in Pages and I just had to learn to live with it.

But then I noticed something. Since I am a professional translator, I have to keep a close eye on a document’s word count, because it’s the primary means to measure the amount of work that is being done and that is to be billed.

Because of this, I always keep an inspector open in Pages with the focus on the “Info” tab under “Document”:

Inspector › Document › Info

(Pages allows you to have multiple inspectors open at the same time, so I use a separate one just for this purpose.)

This “Info” tab in the “Document” inspector is updated as you type, with a “live” word count, character count, etc. Usually this constant live recounting is not a problem in Pages—unlike Microsoft Word, where the live word count feature (in the document status bar at the bottom of the window) is a well-known cause of sluggish performance. (Although Word’s performance remains sluggish even with all “extra” live features such as this one turned off, it’s even worse when these features are on.)

Since I need a live word count most of the time, that’s another reason why I much prefer to work in Pages than in Word. (When people complain about poor performance in Word, Microsoft’s response is usually to suggest turning these features off, as if they were a luxury and not essential for some people, like professional writers.)

But today, I was working on one particular document that was causing Pages to respond very sluggishly to my input. And then I noticed that some of the statistics in the inspector were being constantly recalculated—which is normal—but that the calculations seemed to be taking longer than usual. Pages displays the common “spinning wheel” animation while it’s calculating:


So it’s fairly easy to tell when it’s busy recalculating.

Seeing this somewhat abnormal level of activity, I tried switching to a different tab in order to hide the “Info” tab. And—surprise, surprise—all of a sudden the responsiveness of Pages to my typing and text selecting/editing became much improved! It was still not as good as it should be, but it was significantly better than with the inspector tab visible.

I still do not know what it is in this particular document that caused Pages to waste so many CPU cycles recalculating the statistics. It’s not the document’s word count, which is fairly modest (fewer than 2,000 words). It might be the high number of tables in the document, and the fact that inserting text somewhere in the document obviously causes the pagination to need to be updated, again and again.

Perhaps Pages has more trouble computing the document’s pagination when the document contains many tables and that is what impacts performance. I do not know.

But what I do know is that hiding the “Info” tab in the inspector definitely improves the application’s performance significantly.

So it looks like Pages is not immune from the live count performance problems that have been plaguing Microsoft Word for years. But at least in Pages the problem seems limited to only specific kinds of document, and the live count feature still works well for most documents.

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