Word annoyance: Cross-referencingMay 28, 2009
Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft employees have ever used Word for a long document with multiple heading levels, hundreds of headings, figures and tables, and lots of cross-references to those headings, figures and tables. My experience with Word would suggest not. (I did hear that Microsoft employees use an internal XML system for their documentation, which if true, gives lie to ‘eating your own dog food!’)
So what’s my peeve this time? The Word 2003 Cross-reference dialog box (and, to an extent, the Word 2007 Cross-reference dialog box, though some things have been fixed).
What’s so annoying about it? Well, it just DOESN’T work well with long documents where you have to insert many cross-references. I’ve been working on hundreds of these types of documents since last September and there are some simple things that could improve the experience for those of us who have to use this function many times a day.
Here’s the Word 2003 dialog box, showing that there are many many headings in this document — the vertical scroll bar on the right indicates that Section 5.6 in this example is only about a quarter of the way into this document.
So how is this Word 2003 dialog box broken?
- You cannot resize the dialog box any which way, which means that you have to continually scroll the list nine items at a time (Home and End work within it as do the page up/down keys, so that helps a little). This is sort of fixed in Word 2007 — the dialog is resizable for both height and width, but the resizing does not hold if you close the dialog box. As soon as you re-open it, it goes back to the default size.
- The heading levels cannot be collapsed — they always open fully expanded, which makes it painful to get to Section 12 of 24 sections, for example. Again, you have to scroll to get there. This is the same in Word 2007. Surely it would be a simple thing to add expand/collapse icons for the Headings list??
- If you select an item, then click Insert and leave the dialog open, then select another item and click Insert again, the next time you try to do this, you lose the scroll bar and end up at the top of the list. Now you either have to close the dialog and start again, or use the page up/down etc. keys to navigate to the next cross-reference (the scroll bar is inactive) OR — here’s a tip — click in the scroll bar BEFORE you select the second and subsequent items, then you won’t lose it. It’s an extra click but quicker than having to scroll using the keyboard or closing and re-opening the dialog box. This appears to be fixed in Word 2007, based on the little testing I did.
- The Insert reference to option does not hold between various Reference types. For example, if I choose Only label and number for a Figure, then I insert some figure cross-references, everything is fine. But if I then insert switch reference type to a Table (perhaps also selecting Only label and number) then when I go back to inserting a Figure cross-reference, the default (Entire Caption) is displayed and I have to re-select Only label and number, even if I’m in the same session (i.e. I haven’t closed the dialog and I haven’t closed the Word document). What I would like is for the selection I made the last time I inserted a Figure in this session to hold for the next time I insert a Figure. This would save me hundreds of mouse clicks per document! This is not fixed in Word 2007, which exhibits the same behavior as Word 2003.
These are all little things that perhaps wouldn’t be noticed if you were only using this dialog occasionally. But I’ve had to open it and insert thousands of cross-references over the past six months or so, and it’s limitations are apparent. And annoying.
- 10 suggestions to fix the Cross Reference window: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/message-to-microsoft-fix-words-cross-reference-dialog-box/#comment-9175