Word 2011: Split bar, scrolling position and insertion point

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
June 5th, 2012 • 9:29 am

Here’s a quick experiment. Open a multi-page Word document in page layout view (what is now called the “Print Layout” view mode) and scroll down to the end of the document.

Then locate this control at the top of the scroll bar on the right-hand side:


This is the control that you can use to split the document window in two and view two different sections of the document at the same time. When you hover over it, the mouse pointer changes to a special cursor indicating that you’re going to split your window:


You can either click-and-drag or double-click on the control. Try double-clicking on it once. This will split the document window in two, and now the split bar control is in the middle of the window. Go back to the split bar control and double-click on it again to switch back to a document window with a single pane.

Then repeat the same process a few times: double-click on the control to split the document in two, and then double-click again to remove the split.

Notice anything?

Yes, the current scrolling position has been completely lost. Each time you insert the split bar and then remove it, even if you don’t do anything else, Word 2011 scrolls up. Eventually, you’ll find yourself at the very beginning of your document, even though you have not done any scrolling whatsoever.

This is just an experiment. In real-life usage, it means that it is effectively impossible to control what section(s) of the document the use of the split bar is going to show. In practical terms, whenever you try to use the split bar, you find yourself having to scroll up and down in each pane in order to find the location in the document where you were before you split the document in two.

Having the insertion point somewhere can help, because by pressing a cursor key you can force Word to scroll back to where the insertion point currently is. But since there is very little visual feedback about which of the two panes the focus is currently on, this can still be a very frustrating process, because you might find yourself forcing Word to scroll up or down in the wrong pane.

But the important point here is that, when using the split bar, the scrolling position becomes totally unpredictable. Word also does not care where your insertion point or current selection is. It just goes up, and up, and up, in a totally arbitrary, out-of-control fashion.

The question is, as always: Does anyone at Microsoft actually use this feature? Do they care? Do they really think that this type of behaviour is acceptable, let alone useful?

Now, of course, Apple’s answer to Microsoft Word, Pages ’09, does not even have any kind of feature that lets you see two different sections of the same document at the same time: no split bar, and no option to open the same document in a second, separate window. So in that sense Word is still better. But only because it has no competition. Surely if Apple’s engineers put their minds to it, they could come up with a better implementation of such a feature.

Sadly, iWork development is progressing at a glacial pace. The name of the application (Pages ’09) says it all: It’s been three years, Apple. Get your groove on.

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