Pierre Igot wrote a blog post – Shrinking and expanding selections in
Mac OS X (via Daring
Fireball), in the first part
of which he explains how text selection works on Mac OS X, and complains that
this behavior is wrong. I disagree.
Let me explain. On Windows and Gnome, when you’re selecting text with
mouse, the anchor is being placed on the final point of your selection (and
it’s displayed with a blinking indicator in some applications like
Notepad). If you select text from left to right, the anchor appears at the end
of your selection:
If you go from right to left, the anchor is at the beginning of it:
What if I overshot by one character or two and actually only wanted to select
the first two words? To me, since the selection with the mouse was made from
left to right, intuitively I should be able to shrink the selection by one or
two characters by pressing shift-Left a couple of times on my keyboard.
This seems logical: if you go left to right, you’ll probably miss a character
of two, so placing anchor to the end of your selection is the right way. But
this logic is flawed. It’s no harder to miss a character when you begin
selecting text, than to miss it when you finish. Actually, there’s no way to
select missing characters at the beginning at all, apart from starting your
selection from scratch. There’s also a problem with double-clicking the word.
Where should be the anchor placed in this case? Windows places it at the end of
the word, while Gnome places it at the beginning.
Cocoa text controls behave differently. When you select text with mouse, the
anchor is undefined. When you switch to keyboard, you control the anchor
point: if you start by pressing
Shift+Right, the anchor is being placed at
the end of your selection, but with
Shift+Left it’s being placed at the
beginning. This way you can easily select missing characters in any part of
your selection. Also, without anchor, you can continue growing your selection
Notice that I didn’t say that Mac OS X behave differently, just Cocoa. Carbon
handle this the third way (the anchor is always where you click), but Apple is
getting rid of it. That’s why Finder has anchored text selection with mouse.
Good thing there are rumors that it’s being rewritten in Cocoa for Snow
Yes, there’s inconsistency between text selection and list selection, but
I have no explanation for this :)
Update: Pierre published