Pages ’09: Character formatting and numbered lists

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
September 29th, 2009 • 3:28 pm

I don’t doubt that this will be filed under “Nit-picking” by some people, but to me it is a usability issue and it’s not inconsequential.

In a Pages ’09 document, start a new paragraph and select the automatic list numbering feature (either with the toolbar or with the “Numbered List” list style in the styles drawer).

Then, before you type anything for the list’s first item, press command-I to switch to italics.

Pages ’09 correctly switches to italics, but also changes the automatic number itself to italics.

And after that, even if you switch back to roman later on while typing the first list item, the automatic number remains in italics. And then when you press Return and Pages inserts the next automatic number, that automatic number will be in italics too now, even if your text is in roman.

There might be a reason for this, but it escapes me. (If I really want everything to be in italics, including the list numbers, I can select the entire list and put it in italics.)

Instead, what we have is a situation where, if you want an automatically numbered list with list numbers in roman characters, but one of your list items happens to start with something in italics, then if you try to apply the italics in the normal flow of your text entry (i.e. by pressing command-I before typing the text in italics and then pressing command-I again at the end before typing the rest in roman), Pages arbitrarily applies the italics to the automatic number as well—and then good luck trying to get rid of the unwanted italics.

No, if you want an automatically numbered list of items and one of your list items happens to begin with something in italics, you need to do the counter-intuitive thing and enter the thing that’s supposed to be in italics in roman characters first plus some more text in roman, and then track back and select the thing you wanted in italics and apply the italics. If you don’t type some more text in roman after the stuff you want to put in italics before applying the italics, Pages will still change the automatic number itself to italics.

The same problem occurs with certain other character-level formatting, such as bold, but not, interestingly enough, with underline or strikethrough (I suppose the engineers working on Pages are reasonable enough to figure that no one wants list numbers with underlining or strikethrough formatting). It also does not occur if you use a character style instead of the manual character formatting.

But still… Bold and italics are so common that this behaviour is bound to interfere with text entry for a number of people. It’s a poorly designed feature and one that reveals that Apple’s engineers are, to a degree, like other engineers (including the ones at Microsoft): They don’t seem to be actual users themselves of the features of the software that they design. Otherwise, surely they would realize that this is not an appropriate or desirable behaviour and they would get rid of it.

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