Pages ’09: Problem with applying text colour

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
June 1st, 2009 • 5:41 pm

Generally speaking, Pages ’09 is pretty good when it comes to handling formatting options for heterogeneous selections. If, for example, you have a paragraph to which you have applied the “Keep with following paragraph” formatting option followed by a paragraph to which you have not applied the option, when you combine both paragraphs into a single, continuous selection, that selection will be heterogeneous with respect to the “Keep with following paragraph” formatting option, which is neither on (since the selection includes a paragraph where it is off) nor off (since the selection includes a paragraph where it is on).

Pages ’09 does the right thing and displays a dash across the check box, to indicate a mixed (heterogeneous) selection:

Heterogeneous selection status

(Needless to say, in this area as in so many others, Microsoft Word tends to fail miserably and to be totally unable to correctly display the formatting status of the mixed selection. In this particular case, Word correctly displays the dash in its modal “Paragraph…” dialog box, but if you add the “Keep With Next” toggle button to one of your toolbars, in order to make the option more accessible, the toggle button has no intermediate state to indicate a mixed selection. And there are multiple other formatting options for which Word fails miserably to display the correct status of a mixed selection: Just select two consecutive paragraphs in two different paragraph styles and check the “Style” section of the Formatting Palette…)

In this situation, in Pages, you can leave the selection as it is, or you can click on the “Keep with following paragraph” check box once to apply the formatting option to both paragraphs (the one that already has it and the one that doesn’t have it yet), or you can click on it twice to remove the formatting option from both paragraphs.

That is the normal, expected behaviour in such a situation.

Unfortunately, there is one area where this fails, and that is with text colour and with the text colour control in Pages ’09’s toolbar.

If you have an heterogeneous selection when it comes to text colour and you bring up the text colour palette, Pages ’09 wrongly indicates that the text colour of the current selection is the text colour of the first portion of the selection. See the following example:

Heterogeneous text colour

My selection includes both black text and red text, but according to the text colour palette in Pages ’09’s toolbar, the current colour of my selection is black.

It gets worse: If I click on the (already selected) black square in order to indicate that I want to apply the black colour to the entire selection, it fails. The colour of the selection remains unchanged, i.e. a mix of black and red.

There is a way around this, fortunately. You can bring up the colour inspector by clicking on the “Colors” button in the Pages ’09 toolbar. Pages ’09 will still fail to reflect the heterogeneous nature of the current selection and wrongly indicate that the text colour of the selection is black in the colour inspector, but at least when you click on the (already selected) black colour in the inspector, Pages correctly applies black to the entire selection.

In my view, both the colour palette and the colour inspector should reflect the heterogeneous nature of the selection by highlighting both colours in the palette/list of colours (just like Pages highlights both styles in the Styles drawer when you have a selection including two different styles). And the toolbar palette should definitely let me apply black to the entire selection, like the colour inspector does.

It is, of course, a minor detail, and the fact that there is a workaround for the worst aspect of it makes it even less significant as a flaw in the product. Still, we expect a great level of attention to detail in Mac OS X products, and this should eventually get fixed.

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