Those of us who do a lot of typing on Macs are familiar with a variety of keyboard shortcuts for navigating lines, words, and characters in text editors that use standard “Cocoa key bindings.”
Among those common keyboard shortcuts are cmd-arrow to move to the beginning or end of a line, and option-arrow to move between words in a sentence.
Starting in Lion, Apple fine-tuned the behavior by changing the definition of what constitutes a word delimiter for option-arrow navigation. While it used to stop on e.g. period-separated words, now it considers such chains.of.words to be a single “word.” My friend Mike Ash noticed this and, when he complained about it to me, I set about finding a solution.
It turns out there’s a supported preference setting to alter this behavior. Look in your System Preferences under the Langage & Text pane, and you’ll find a “Word Breaks” setting with various options, including a special one just for nerds:
For most people, the “Standard” setting is probably the right choice. But computer programmers are far more likely to encounter words that are separated by syntactic characters such as periods, colons, etc. For us, it makes more sense to have the system pause at these word breaks than to breeze right by them.
- You should take note that after changing the setting, you won’t notice changes in applications until they have been quit and relaunched again.
- As noted in the comments, this feature was apparently available in 10.6 as well, and was possible more along the lines of the default in 10.5 and previous. The growing consensus seems to be that it was in the update from 10.6 to 10.7 that a previous selection of this setting was not preserved.