Word 2011: Flickering madness in tables

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
December 13th, 2010 • 5:27 pm

Here’s a quick little movie for you:

What on earth is going on here?

Guess what? Absolutely nothing. The only thing that I did during the recording of this video clip was to move the mouse pointer slightly. I didn’t click on anything, I didn’t select anything until the very end.

Apparently, even ensuring that the cursor blinks properly at all times while you are working in Word 2011 is beyond Microsoft’s capabilities. In this little movie, my cursor is actually in the “1. Identity” line, between “Ide” and “ntity.” But the mere fact that I am hovering over the small table below with my mouse pointer causes Word 2011 to:

  1. display some kind of control next to the top-left corner of the table, which flickers on and off in a seemingly random fashion
  2. display a small square box next to the bottom-right corner of the table, which also flickers on and off, in sync with the other one
  3. fail to display the actual cursor in its location with a regular blinking animation, which is the only thing that should be flickering on and off on the screen at this point

The worst part of it is that the flickering control in the top-left corner of the table, which is supposed, as far as I understanding it, to act as a proxy for the entire table (you are supposed to be able to click-and-drag on it to move the table around) does not even work!

As soon as I try to hover over it with the mouse pointer, it disappears and I get the I-beam cursor. And if I try to click on it, Word just selects the paragraph above the table, i.e. the behaviour you normally get when clicking in the right margin next to the text, when the cursor is supposed to look like an inverted arrow (which is not the case here, since it is an I-beam icon).

It’s totally maddening.

Of course, if I try to reproduce this problem in a blank document with a new table, I can’t do it. There things work as expected:

The controls don’t flicker, and I can actually click on the proxy icon and it selects the table.

So what’s going on here? Why do I get the problem with the table in my first document and not with this one?

Who the hell knows? It probably has something to do with the general ineptitude of Microsoft Word’s layout features, and the fact that you cannot even easily control whether a table is an inline object or a floating object. (I can’t even tell whether the distinction exists or not.) Of course, the first document I used as an illustration above is a document that I got from someone else, who created it with a different version of Word, and there are probably things about the layout settings for that table that Word 2011 does not like and that cause it to act up like this.

The problem I have is that it does this for the most of the tables in documents that I get from other people. And it’s enough to drive me insane. I just cannot stand this flickering.

Yes, switching to Draft view mode instead of Print Layout view mode causes the flickering to stop (because in Draft mode Word 2011 no longer attempts to display the proxy control), but it’s not a solution, in part since the font kerning is so bad with most fonts in Draft mode.

I have had to work in Word 2011 a lot in the past few days (because I had to work on documents that relied too much on Word’s inept layout features for Pages ’09 to do a good enough job converting the document from and to the Word file format). And I am telling you, this new version of Word is just as bad as the previous ones. Every time the MacBU produces a new version, it comes up with new ways to make your live unbearable and to drive you insane with frustration and annoyance.

The list of bugs and flaws is just endless. Word 2011 might work half decently when creating new short documents from scratch, but whenever I open an existing document, filled with someone else’s attempts to work around Word’s innumerable perceived or real limitations and flaws, even though I try to breathe in deeply and calmly before diving in, it only takes a few minutes before I start swearing again at the thing.

It’s quite simply pure software crap. Why anyone would want to use it unless they are absolutely forced to is beyond me.

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