“Find” triggers “Browse By Object” — and disables Page Up and Page Down (Word, all recent versions)

October 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Note: This article appears in a slightly different form in my book, Formatting Legal Documents With Microsoft Office Word 2007.

After you use “Find” (or “Find and Replace”) to look for a word, phrase, or object in Word, the keyboard shortcuts for Page Up (Ctrl Page Up) and Page Down (Ctrl Page Dn) stop working as navigation keys. In addition, the Page Up and Page Down buttons in the scrollbar stop working as expected. This seemingly arbitrary change in functionality actually happens by design, but it can be disconcerting if you’re not expecting it. It has to do with the “Browse by Object” feature and the fact that this feature is linked to “Find.”

“Browse by Object,” which is invoked by clicking a circular button at the bottom of the vertical scrollbar, can be quite useful. Related to “Go To,” it allows you to move through your document in the conventional fashion — page by page — or by various other objects or “landmarks”: edits (modifications made while the Track Changes feature is enabled), headings, graphics, tables, fields, endnotes, footnotes, comments, or sections. It also offers a “Go To” option and a “Find” option. By default, this feature is set to browse by Page.

As handy as “Browse by Object” can be, it also has the potential to trip you up in unexpected ways. The confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft assigned the key combination for Page Up (Ctrl Page Up) and Page Down (Ctrl Page Dn) not to Page Up and Page Down specifically, but to the Browse by Object feature itself.

That fact alone doesn’t necessarily present a problem—unless and until you use “Find” (or “Find and Replace”). When you use Find (or Find and Replace) to search for text, the “Browse by” default search object changes from “Page” to “Find.” Afterwards, when you try to go to the previous page or the next page by pressing Ctrl Page Up or Ctrl Page Dn—or by clicking the Page Up or Page Down arrows on the scrollbar—Word stops browsing by page and instead browses by the word or phrase you last typed into the Find box! In fact, you might see a rather mystifying error message: “Word has reached the end of the document. Do you want to continue searching at the beginning?” That message won’t make sense to you unless you realize that your earlier use of the “Find” feature has triggered “Browse by Object” and, in effect, has hijacked the Page Up and Page Down commands.

You’ll run into the same problem if you use the Browse by Object feature and select any object other than Page. The object you select—edits, comments, sections, whatever—will become the default “Browse by” object, and using Page Up / Page Down will cause Word to search through your document by the object you’ve chosen.

The thing to keep in mind is that whatever object you last used as your search criterion—whether you used the “Find” dialog box or “Browse by Object”—becomes the new “Browse by Object” default. This new default will stick until (1) you close out of and re-launch Word (when it reopens, the program restores the “Browse by Object” default to “Page”) or (2) you specifically click the “Browse By” button and then click Page to reset the default object.

TIP / WORKAROUND: One workaround for the “Browse by” issue is to assign a different keyboard shortcut to the Page Up and Page Down commands and use that shortcut instead of Ctrl Page Up and Ctrl Page Dn.

To assign a new key combination to the Page Up and Page Down commands, click the Office button, Word Options, Customize, then click Keyboard shortcuts: Customize. In the Categories box, scroll down to and click All Commands. In the Commands box, scroll down to and click GoToNextPage.

Next, click in the Press new shortcut key: box and press a new key combination, such as Ctrl Shift Page Dn . If that key combination isn’t already assigned to another function in Word, click the Assign button.

Then, in the Commands box, scroll down to and click GoToPreviousPage. In the Press new shortcut key: box, press a different key combination, such as Ctrl Shift Page Up. If that key combination isn’t already assigned to another function in Word, click the Assign button.

For that matter, you could use Page Dn and Page Up, keys that in Word — unlike in certain other programs — take you from screen to screen, rather than from page to page. Choosing those keys would be perfectly logical and would have the added advantage of being easy to remember.

When you’ve finished assigning shortcut keys, click Close, and then be sure to click OK (not Cancel) to close out of Word Options.

Now, when you wish to move up or down one full page, use your new keyboard shortcuts. They’ll work regardless of whether you have recently used “Find,” “Find and Replace,” or “Browse by Object.”

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