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  1. #1
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    Loss of selection highlight when Office application loses focus

    In Word 2010 and Excel 2010, the current selection is highlighted only while the window has focus. When focus is shifted to a different window, the highlighting disappears and it becomes impossible to identify the selection. I assume that this is so in all Office applications and all versions.

    This is a significant problem for me, because I often have to compare a list of file names in an Excel workbook to a corresponding list in another application. Since the other application is not Excel, the comparison has to be done by eye. I do this by displaying the two applications side by side and looking back and forth. If I can't see the current selection in both applications at once, this comparison becomes somewhat more difficult and much more error prone.

    Is there a way to work around this habit of Excel? (I'd call it a bug, but I'm pretty sure Microsoft wouldn't agree.)

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    I see the same thing with Office 2010 on Win7. If I set two programs side by side or stacked, highlight text in Word then click in the other program, such as Firefox, the selected text in Word becomes un-highlighted but when I click back into Word the selection is there. It may only be with Microsoft programs as I can open a document in WordPerfect, select some text then move between it and this Reply and the selection remains.

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    I've seen the same thing happen in some different programs. But there are some I can think of where this doesn't happen.

    No idea why but I doubt it's a bug, per se.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    I'm pretty sure it's determined by a property of some object associated with the display of text. Probably intentional, but from my perspective, incomprehensible.

    The question is how to get around it. One approach would be to take a snapshot of the window with highlights displayed; but that's self-defeating, because I have to reconcile the differences between two lists, and I can't change the Excel list through the snapshot.

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    I wonder if this is a situation that could work on a computer having 2 monitors attached, open one instance of a program in one monitor and open a second instance of the program in the other monitor?

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    Berton, I'm not sure what you're getting at. If the other program has the focus, Excel doesn't -- it doesn't matter whether Excel has one window open or two.

    In any case I don't think two monitors would make a difference. Windows doesn't display windows on one monitor or the other; it displays them on a desktop, and maps the desktop to the monitors at a lower level. Ask yourself what would happen to a window that spans the boundary between the two monitors -- it seems unlikely that one part of the window would be handled differently than the other.
    Last edited by jsachs177; 2015-10-08 at 09:16.

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    Access 2010 does not show this behavior - just tested by selecting a row in a query, then moving focus to another program. The selected row is still highlighted. If you are making changes to the other (non-Excel) file, maybe you could import the data or create a link inside Access to your Excel file?

    Hope this helps

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    Does this happen no matter what other program you switch to? What about something like Control Panel or Notepad?
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    This is a huge productivity killer; I have silently complained about this for years. Windows Secrets writers, are you reading this thread? How can we collectively complain to Microsoft about this?

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    It does. I would have been astonished if it didn't. It happens as well if you click the Desktop or the Start button. It happens when an Office application loses focus; it's not a result of some other application's hocus-pocus.

    BTW, I acknowledge Sib's report that it doesn't happen to Access 2010, but I can add that it does happen to Outlook 2010.

    BTW2, Sib, you unfortunately misinterpreted the nature of the problem. This is not a situation where the other program has anything to export. Its "list" is a simply a display of the files that are included in a project. I can imagine the blank look I'd get if I could contact the designer of that program and ask him how to export the list. (In case you're wondering, the program is ePublisher, a high-end application for electronic publishing.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by dplautatjhhs View Post
    This is a huge productivity killer; I have silently complained about this for years. Windows Secrets writers, are you reading this thread? How can we collectively complain to Microsoft about this?
    Have you tried different Operation Systems such as Mac OS X or any of the more than 200 versions of Linux to see if the same problem can be replicated? Would help to eliminate if Windows or any Windows-based program is at fault.

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    Berton, something isn't getting through, and I don't know how to convey it. Again, this is something an application does when it loses focus. It's not something the application gaining focus does to it. Not something the operating system does. Not something the Russian national hockey team does. The application does it to itself.

    When most Office applications lose focus, selected text changes from white-on-blue to black-on-white (provided the text was black-on-white before it was selected). In Internet Explorer selected text behaves the same way, for obvious reasons. In Firefox it changes from white-on-blue to white-on-light-grey; likewise in Thunderbird, which shares much of Firefox's digital DNA. In Chrome it changes from white-on-turquoise to black-on-medium-grey. In Adobe Reader selected text is black-on-medium-blue, and when the application loses focus it doesn't change at all. And so on.

    Will Office behave differently on a Mac? It will if the Mac doesn't let applications control the appearance of selected text when focus is lost. I don't have a Mac to experiment with, but I'd say that in any highly refined modern GUI, that's unlikely.

    In any case this may be an interesting and even useful experiment for other people, but it's academic for me, because my employer isn't going to let me use a Mac. And if it did let me I couldn't use one anyway, because ePublisher doesn't run on a Mac.
    Last edited by jsachs177; 2015-10-08 at 22:15.

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    This has nothing to do with the applications, but with how the OS handles application windows - the same happens even between different windows of the same app (e.g. if you use Word in split-screen view). Although selection highlighting is lost, there are plenty of workarounds, such as changing the font colour or highlighting of the selection before changing focus.
    Quote Originally Posted by dplautatjhhs View Post
    How can we collectively complain to Microsoft about this?
    You could use Microsoft's feedback pages...
    Cheers,

    Paul Edstein
    [MS MVP - Word]

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    macropod, I originally came here asking about workarounds, so I'm very interested in what you have to say. Removing an old highlight and adding a new one each time I change the selection would not work very well for me. (It would be more work for less payback than simply printing the lists and comparing on paper, the ultimate workaround.) I'm interested in the other workarounds you mentioned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jsachs177 View Post
    I'm interested in the other workarounds you mentioned.
    The only workarounds I can think ATM would be various on the theme of changing the font colour or highlighting. As for changing highlighting, etc., since you're already selecting the content, highlighting it need only be a shortcut key away, and reverting only requires an Undo.
    Cheers,

    Paul Edstein
    [MS MVP - Word]

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