Word 2011: Find/Replace is broken

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
December 9th, 2010 • 11:41 pm

The “new and improved” text search fonction in Word 2011 is completely broken, and it’s absolutely maddening.

Of course, the problems are not reliably reproducible, so all I can do is describe what is happening to me while I am working on various documents in Word 2011. But it’s so bad that I simply cannot remain silent.

Last time I wrote about this, I mentioned that one of the benefits of the new Find/Replace feature was that you could use document-specific search strings, i.e. use a given search string in document A and another, different search string in document B at the same time.

Well, that’s true in theory, but in practice, it simply does not work reliably. More often than not, in Word 2011, when I do a search in document A, then switch to document B and do a different search in document B, and then switch back to document A to continue the search that I had started there, the search string in document A… changes to the one that I just entered in document B.

Of course, it does not happen all the time and I have no idea what the exact conditions are to trigger this buggy behaviour. It just happens and, like I said, more often than not. (And of course, in Microsoft’s alternate universe, it never happens and they don’t know a thing about it.)

Another maddening thing is that when you go back to a document where you had done a search for text string X and you try to start a search for text string Y in the same document, sometimes Word simply continues to highlight the search results for search string X. This occurs mainly in Print Layout view mode and switching to Draft view mode tends to fix the problem, but really, how bad can you get?

And don’t get me started on trying to copy a text string and paste it into the search field. I was just in the process of trying to do this 10 minutes ago, and each time I placed the cursor in the search field and pressed command-V, Word 2011 pasted the contents of the Clipboard… in the document itself!

I tried again and again, clearly putting the focus and the cursor in the search field in the toolbar, and pressing command-V. And every time Word 2011 pasted the text in the body of the document. Unbelievable.

Then there is the fact that, whenever the sidebar with the Find and Replace field (the so-called “Search Pane”) is visible, the whole application becomes noticeably more sluggish. Even at the best of times, when you enter a text string and press Return to search for it, it takes a second or two before Word starts highlighting the found occurrences and scrolls to the first one. But when the document is large, it can take longer and, more important, if you leave the sidebar visible and just resume working on your document, if you happen to be in a section with a table or two or, worse still, a graphic, and you try to type text in the table cells or in the text fields in the graphic, the typing is ridiculously slow. I just had a document with some kind of diagram consisting of a few circles with arrows and boxes of text in the circles. That was apparently enough for Word to completely seize up and take several seconds to respond to my typing.

Atrocious. Here it is in real time:

No, this is not how fast I type. This is how fast Word 2011 responds to my (20 times faster) typing here.

Then again, even closing the sidebar didn’t make things much better, so it’s probably just one problem compounding another here.

Anyhow, the whole thing is a complete fiasco. Not only does this new search feature hijack the keyboard shortcuts for the old one, but on top of it, regardless of how much space it wastes, it simply does not work properly. It’s completely buggy, unreliable, slow, and unintuitive.

In other words, it’s Microsoft at their best. (Their worst will make you suicidal.)

One Response to “Word 2011: Find/Replace is broken”

  1. Betalogue » Word 2011: ‘Find Next’ fails to find text in boxes says:

    […] box (not the UI monster known as Word 2011’s “new and improved” search feature, which is yet another totally useless piece of crap) and type “test” in the “Find:” […]