Pages ’09: Cleaning Up Invisible Characters

One issue I see frequently with folks who are learning to use Pages is frustration when something just won’t work the way they expect it to. A pretty common cause of this is an invisible character or two—a couple of spaces, say, where a tab should go, or an inappropriate page break. Once I show them how to check out those pesky little characters and clean ‘em up, though, it’s smooth sailing. Want some smooth sailing for yourself? Then come, um…jump in the boat, I guess.

To turn on this fine feature, open Pages and go to View > Show Invisibles (or hit Shift-Command-I). 

After you’ve done that, you’ll see a fine mess of things appear in your document. Here’s what my original text looked like:

And then here’s how it looked after I hit Shift-Command-I:

As you can see, the various hidden characters—like the page break, tab, spaces, and paragraph returns shown here—will then appear in color for easy cleanup. It’s much easier to remove something once you know it’s there!

You can change what color the invisibles are shown in, too, if you’d like. That option is in Pages > Preferences under the “General” tab.

But what do all of those squiggly characters mean, you might ask? Luckily, Apple’s included a useful guide within the program to assist you in figuring that out. It’s shown below, but to see it from within Pages, just go to the Help menu and type in “invisibles.”

If you didn’t already know about this feature, I can promise you that it’ll be very helpful in your future document-creation endeavors. I very rarely get upset with Pages, but when I have, this little trick has saved me from being mean to my machine. It’s not my computer’s fault, I know, but yelling certain words at it always seems to improve my mood.