Monday, November 8, 2010


[Say what?]

Poking around in the Lists options in TextEdit, the text-editor / word-processor that comes with every Mac, I was baffled by this drop-down box. What might it mean to “Prepend enclosing list marker”?

Prepend, I immediately discovered, is unmentioned in TextEdit’s Help file, which has little to say about lists at all. The word appears in neither the Mac’s New Oxford American Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate. In Webster’s Third New International, the word means “consider, premeditate.” It’s the Oxford English Dictionary for the win, supplementing the word’s older meanings — “To weigh up mentally, ponder, consider; to premeditate” — with a more recent one: “trans. To add at the beginning, to prefix, prepose; esp. to add or append (a character, string, file, etc.) at the front of an existing string, file, etc.”

Further digging: Apple’ documentation says that
NSTextListPrependEnclosingMarker “Specifies that a nested list should include the marker for its enclosing superlist before its own marker.” One software developer notes, dryly, “We are confident that someone will find this useful.”

Well, I have: I’ve made a post about it. But I’ve made various lists, with and without the box checked, and I still cannot figure out what an enclosing list marker is and what difference prepending one might make. I wonder if any TextEdit user does.

Update, 10:39 a.m.: Someone does! An explanation may be found in the comments. Thanks, Arne.

comments: 4

arne said...

Apparently it means that when you create a nested list, and you tick the 'prepend etc' box, the outer list's 'prefixes' get prepended to the items in the nested list.

See example

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the link, Arne. You’ve made clear what no one else on the Internet seems to make clear.

To get something like the linked image, I used the outline function (Option + Tab) and then added numbers and letters. Is there another way to create a nested list?

jw said...

To get the nested list from the example image, you'll have to use the "Lists" pull-down menu on the ruler. I wish I could find a way to default to a Harvard-style outline rather than just the bullet points, or at least find a way to change the style with the keyboard rather than the mouse, but that appears to be beyond the ken of TextEdit.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, TextEdit is a bit clunky. An outline (or “list,” on TE’s terms) of any complexity would seem to require a lot of by-hand work.