Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Scrolling oddity in Microsoft Word

If you open a web-downloaded document in Microsoft Word 2010 for the first time, it opens in a read-only mode called Protected View. Pressing 'Enable Editing' permanently switches the document to read/write mode.
A web-downloaded document opened in Protected View.
On the other hand, a document created on your PC opens directly into read/write mode from the start.
A document created locally, opened in read/write mode.
There's a subtle inconsistency in scrolling behavior between the two modes. After opening a document in Protected View, you cannot scroll the text using the keyboard (the directional keys, PgUp/PgDn, Home/End) without clicking on it first. (You can't use Tab to shift focus to it either). On the other hand, a document opened in read/write mode can be immediately scrolled using the keyboard.

I'm not sure why this is. Protected View does have heavy restrictions -- you can't print unless you enable editing, for instance, despite printing being an ostensibly read-only action. But I think this is more likely a minor UI programming inconsistency. If that's the case, correcting it shouldn't be too difficult.

I realize this is a minor issue, and one that seems almost frivolous to write about. But as a teaching assistant, I often need to open dozens (if not hundreds) of documents downloaded from the Internet, and at that scale, an issue like this can become noticeable.

Little issues of this sort have an effect on the smoothness, polish, and comfort of a UI. I don't know if Word's development team would consider this an important enough issue to fix. But fixing it would increase the application's usability, if only by a little. Fixing several such issues would increase the usability a lot.

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