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Copying and pasting are probably some of the most common functions you perform on your computer. We’ve shown how a clipboard manager improves these functions Hold That Thought: 5 Reasons You Need A Clipboard Manager Hold That Thought: 5 Reasons You Need A Clipboard Manager When you think about it, copy paste is kind of weird. You copy stuff, but there's no way to see it. And if you copy over what you had, it's gone – forever. Read More , but copy-pasting brings another common annoyance: special formatting. You’ve surely experienced this: you’ll copy some text (perhaps a heading from a website) and want to paste it into a Word document, but it keeps its color, size, and other features when you do.

We’re going to take a look at ways to alleviate this issue. They range from bare-bones to automated; go for whichever works for you!

Let Notepad Intervene

Windows Notepad and its alternatives Notepad Not Doing The Trick? Try Out The Lightweight Alternatives Xint & Subpad Notepad Not Doing The Trick? Try Out The Lightweight Alternatives Xint & Subpad Read More  are about as basic as a computer program can get. Because of this, they don’t carry the capacity for special formatting like dedicated word processors (such as Microsoft Word or the free LibreOffice Writer LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac Read More ) do.

Our simplest solution is to paste any text that you want to strip of formatting into Notepad first, then copy it again. Once you grab Notepad’s version, you’ll have only the text and won’t have to worry about any colors or alternative fonts sticking around. Try using Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More or pinning Notepad to your taskbar to be sure you can access it whenever you need to paste something.

01-Notepad-Strip-Formatting

Use Office’s Special Paste

A lot of pasting occurs into Microsoft Office products Microsoft Office 2013: Unofficial Guide Microsoft Office 2013: Unofficial Guide If you're considering an upgrade to Office 2013, or you've just paid for the package and want to make the best of it, this Microsoft Office 2013 Guide is for you. Read More , and if you’re typing a paper, coming up with a slideshow 5 Creative Uses Of PowerPoint Presentations You Haven't Explored Yet 5 Creative Uses Of PowerPoint Presentations You Haven't Explored Yet Microsoft PowerPoint can do much more than boring presentations. It’s PowerPoint 2013’s time now and the search for creative and uncommon uses of PowerPoint continues. Here are five. Read More , or preparing a graphic in Publisher, the extras are probably unwanted. Thankfully, with an extra click, you can skip the formatting when you paste in Office.

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02-Office-Paste-Options

You have a few ways of clearing text formatting. First, once you paste, a small pop-up will appear and give you three options:

  • Keep Source Formatting will preserve the text as you copied it. (Shortcut: Press CTRL + K, to select this after pasting).
  • Merge Formatting will force the text you’re pasting to match the text around it. (Shortcut: Press CTRL + M, to choose this after pasting).
  • Keep Text Only will only take the text and give it no other formatting. (Shortcut: Press CTRL+ T, to do this quickly after pasting).

When this bubble appears, you can even choose which option to set as default. If you’d like, you can also accomplish this using the Paste Special option under Paste on the left side of the Home ribbon. It’s effectively the same option, though it gains more functionality if you’re pasting more than just text.

03-Office-Paste-Special

Try a Dedicated Program

The above two solutions require you to manually ensure your text is stripped of its formatting, but for those who like to automate FastKeys: Customizable Automation Software To Do Almost Anything [Windows] FastKeys: Customizable Automation Software To Do Almost Anything [Windows] Read More , PureText for Windows is a free tool that essentially does the copy-paste-copy in Notepad for you. Grab either the 32-bit or the 64-bit download and unzip it How To Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z & Other Common Archives How To Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z & Other Common Archives Were you ever faced with a .rar file and wondered how to open it? Fortunately, managing ZIP files and other compressed archives is simple with the right tools. Here is what you need to know. Read More (PureText doesn’t need to be installed). You won’t know it’s working other than a small PT icon running in your system tray Manage And Tidy The Windows 7 System Tray Manage And Tidy The Windows 7 System Tray Every Windows user has seen the Windows system tray (also known as the notification area) become cluttered over time. We’ve covered disabling distracting desktop notifications in the past, but what if the icons themselves are... Read More . Right-clicking the icon will let you open the few program options.

04-PureText-Options

By default, the shortcut is Windows + V, which is probably fine if you haven’t set your own keyboard shortcut How To Launch Any Windows App At The Touch Of A Button How To Launch Any Windows App At The Touch Of A Button Read More on that combination. If you need something different, PureText lets you set it to pretty much anything you want.

The only other options let you automatically paste the text that the program converts (which you obviously want enabled to streamline the process), play a sound upon pasting (this is annoying and you’ll want to shut it off), and run the program at startup. If you’ll be using PureText regularly, this is a good idea; just remember that too many startup programs can backfire Make Windows Start Faster: 10 Non-Essential Startup Items You Can Safely Remove Make Windows Start Faster: 10 Non-Essential Startup Items You Can Safely Remove So your computer has been booting slowly lately? You probably have too many programs and services trying to start up all at once. Are you wondering how they got there and how to remove them? Read More .

Utilize Browser Extensions

In addition to PureText, which works across Windows, you can install a dedicated browser extension The Best Chrome Extensions The Best Chrome Extensions A list of the best extensions for Google Chrome, including suggestions from both our readers and our writers. Read More in either Chrome or Firefox, if you prefer.

For Firefox, Copy Plain Text 2 will do the trick. After installing it, you’ll have a new Copy As Plain Text option on your right-click menu 10 Best Shortcuts to Add to Your Right-Click Menu 10 Best Shortcuts to Add to Your Right-Click Menu The context menu that pops up whenever you perform a right-click can help you become more productive. With the right tool, customizing the shortcuts within it is a breeze. Read More that lets you grab anything in your browser without the formatting. If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, the extension also makes CTRL + Shift + U perform the copy.

A few tweaks can be made, including removing extra space and changing special characters to regular text (such as ® to r). If you want to go all-in, Copy Plain Text 2 can also override the standard copy command completely. Be careful with this, though!

05-Firefox-Paste-Formatting-Extension

Chrome users will want to take advantage of Copy as plain text, a counterpart to the Firefox extension. It’s slim and only allows you to copy plain text by right-clicking and choosing the new option; you won’t find any keyboard shorcuts with this one, which may be a deal-breaker.

Remember Keyboard Shortcuts

Frankly, browser extensions are a heavy-handed solution 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Install Lots Of Browser Extensions [Opinion] 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Install Lots Of Browser Extensions [Opinion] We all love our browsers, and we all love the extensions that you can install with them. We love browser extensions because they allow us to do what we want our browser to do that... Read More for this problem, as Chrome and Firefox already include shortcuts for pasting regular text out of the box. In both browsers, simply press CTRL + Shift + V to paste text without the extras, no matter where you copied it from!

06-Chrome-Keyboard-Shortcut-Formatting-Strip

Elsewhere in Windows, the shortcut CTRL + Space will clear formatting from selected text. It’s not a universal shortcut (it isn’t working in MarkdownPad, the program I use for writing), but it will work in Office.

What About Mac and Linux?

You can still easily strip the formatting using a different OS.

In Mac OS X:

  • You can use Shift + Option + Command + V to paste without formatting (or with whatever format the pasted text is placed into). The Chrome shortcut from Windows is the same: Command + Shift + Option + V, and you can install the extensions if you want.
  • Using TextEdit, the Mac equivalent to Notepad A Closer Look At The TextEdit Word Processing Program [Mac] A Closer Look At The TextEdit Word Processing Program [Mac] Read More , you can copy and paste text as in the first method outlined above. You may need to choose Format > Make Plain Text (Command + Shift + T); to keep formatting out by default, go to Preferences and under Format, choose Plain Text.
  • Install a clipboard manager, such as the free Flycut, which allows you to paste unstyled text.
  • If you’d like to force pasted text to be unstyled system-wide, head to System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Application Shortcuts and click the plus sign below to add a shortcut. For the Application box, select All Applications, and in the Menu Title box, type Paste and Match Style. Finally, in the Keyboard Shortcut box, type Command + V and you’ll see the key combination in the box. Click Add, and you’re all set!

07-Paste-Key

For Linux:

  • In recent versions of Linux, you can use CTRL + Shift + V to paste text without formatting.
  • Like Windows, you can paste into a text editor (try Gedit if you need one) to strip the formatting before pasting elsewhere.
  • The above browser extensions will work in Linux as well.

You’re a Pasting Wizard

As we’ve seen, it doesn’t really matter whether you copy the text without the formatting or if you wait until pasting it to strip it. Whichever methods work best for you (there’s a lot of them!) will do just fine, and you’ll save time instead of having to manually format everything.

If you’re on Windows, the best combo is probably to install PureText and use that universal shortcut whenever you need a plain paste. Barring that, Chrome and Firefox’s shortcut and special pasting in Office on special occasions should mean you’re taken care of.

Want to take your copy-pasting even further? Check out ten alternative clipboard managers 10 Incredibly Useful Clipboard Management Utilities [Windows] 10 Incredibly Useful Clipboard Management Utilities [Windows] Copy and paste is one of the best features we have at our fingertips, especially when combined with keyboard shortcuts. You can’t argue that copying and pasting is one of the most common things we... Read More for increased functionality.

What’s your favorite way to strip out text formatting? Are any of these methods new to you? Paste a comment below and let me know!

Image Credit: Clipboard Key via Shutterstock

  1. JFitz
    November 7, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Thank you! This has been vexing me for over 30 minutes!!

    • Ben Stegner
      November 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      I'm glad this helps you! Which method do you prefer to strip the formatting?

  2. cipricus
    October 12, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    About Nuvola player: it IS just a webkit browser page. -- The fact that it "integrates" with the system doesn't make it a player. - Also, I see no integration in KDE. It is just a simplistic webkit browser with some bookmarks for the music streaming sites.

    • Tina Sieber
      November 8, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Thank you for your comment Cipricus. I'm afraid you scrolled a little too far and left it under an unrelated article. The above is about stripping the formatting from text, not about Nuvola or webkit browsers at all.

  3. James Moberg
    July 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I use a AutoHotKey script to remove/replace RichText styles & Microsoft SmartText characters... http://www.sunstarmedia.com/autohotkey-scripts.htm#StripFormatting

  4. Burak
    May 24, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I just googled for this issue and found there. I liked PureText :)
    and I liked "ctrl+k"
    I will use these features a lot during my thesis ;)

  5. Craig
    April 16, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    You had me at CTRL + Shift + V

  6. John Williams
    February 10, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Since I retired I no longer own Office, but the world and his dog keep sending me .doc and even worse .docx files. Despite Abiword and Libreoffice and other free softwares claiming they can open docx, it often doesn't work.
    I find the only way to rid myself of MS Word bloat is to pass it through Notepad. The most startling thing you notice is the file size difference. Less than 1kb of pure ASCII text is turned into 30-50kb by Office! It can't all be formatting info.
    What is Word saying about you in the metadata it adds to every page you write? You'll have to Google that, it's too long for this comment.
    A useful tip is that saving without metadata in Word is not a global option, it defaults to "on" and has to be disabled for each document, or each page for the truly paranoid.

    Many spies governments and diplomats are returning to using typewriters, photographing the document and sending the .jpg .....

    • Ben S
      March 9, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      I've been curious about the metadata in Word, as you said - a half-page of text is ~50 KB, which seems like way too much. I'll have to check out the specifics soon - thanks for bringing this up!

    • Shing a light in the darkness
      October 14, 2016 at 12:13 am

      > Many spies governments and diplomats are returning to using
      > typewriters, photographing the document and sending the .jpg

      This seems like mere conjecture and extremely implausible.

      • Ben Stegner
        October 31, 2016 at 4:10 pm

        I think you're right, as there's not really any proof of this.

        • Learning to proofread
          October 31, 2016 at 7:27 pm

          Then why don't you take down the comment? Why succumb to the notion that, "The Internet is full of foolish statements, half-truths, and outright lies therefore why try to clean it up?" Freedom of speech is not absolute. Besides, freedom of speech does not even apply to website such as this one.

          Surely, eventually governments will pass laws requiring companies such as yours to "do the right thing." Why wait? Why not establish a solid reputation now?

        • Ben Stegner
          October 31, 2016 at 7:37 pm

          Because 80% of his comment is information, not conjecture. Further, we aren't fond of deleting every comment we don't agree with. Things that are offensive or malicious, sure, but we don't just blatantly delete every comment we don't agree with.

  7. Jean LeRoy
    February 10, 2015 at 2:50 am

    If you are using a mac all you need is "text soap" I have been using it for years, it is simple copy, paste, scrub, copy, paste you are done. Gets rid of forwarding and all.

  8. Tom
    February 10, 2015 at 2:01 am

    I've never thought of this as a problem because I've been using Clipmate for so many years. Although not free, and no longer actively being developed, it still stands head and shoulders above the competition. IMHO, easily the most useful utility program of all time.

  9. Brian
    February 9, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    If you're pasting into Excel and you want to remove formatting, don't paste it into an actual cell. Instead, click in the input bar (above the grid area) and paste it there. This is a plain text input box, so it removes all formatting.

    • Ben S
      March 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      That's a great point, and if you use Excel a lot but don't want to install third-party tools or bother with Notepad it's a perfect solution. Thanks for a good addition to the list!

  10. LoveThisPost!
    February 9, 2015 at 4:58 am

    I used to use notepad, but I simply paste in the browser's address bar (URLs) and then copy/paste ...

  11. Ivan
    February 7, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I use this autohotkey script to strip the formatting:

    ;INSERT PLAIN TEXT

    #v::Gosub Plaintext

    Plaintext:

    clipboard = %clipboard% ;clear any formatting from the clipboard
    send, {CTRLDOWN}v{CTRLUP} ;send normal paste command
    return ;end the function

  12. David
    February 7, 2015 at 5:40 am

    On my Mac, I prefer TextWrangler, both for removal of text formatting and general text editing. It's more like Windows Notepad than TextEdit.

  13. Ignacio
    February 7, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Wow! And I thought I had a lot of programs running in the system tray!!! And there is "only" 12 of them... never thought I'd see the monster quantity of programs on your screen shot!!! LOL Do you actually run other programs on your machine? Does it ever get "stuck"? How much RAM does your system have, 32 GB?

    • Ben S
      February 7, 2015 at 1:55 am

      I have 8 GB of RAM and a solid-state drive and my computer is screaming fast. Between cloud storage and productivity tools, I have a lot running! Note that some of it is pre-installed HP stuff along with Windows notifications.

  14. alc112
    February 6, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    I use notepad++ beacuse it lets me replace the "enter" with a "space" (It's called EOL to space) when I copy text from a OCRed PDF. In fact, I made a macro. so now I just have to Crtl+c in pdf, change to notepad++ and crtl+t and finllay go to Word to paste the plain text :)

  15. Jon
    February 6, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    my method (Firefox on Win):
    Ctrl+c; Ctrl+l/k; Ctrl+v; Ctrl+a; Ctrl+c
    explanation:
    copy; moves to address bar/ search bar; paste text(formating is cleared); choose all; copy

    just seen the last commenter - M R said exactly the same! posting it anyway :P

    • Tina
      March 8, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks for sharing anyway, Jon! I actually do the same with Chrome sometimes. :)

  16. M R
    February 6, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I use firefox and when I have something highlighted on a website that I want to copy without formatting I 1) copy (Ctrl-C), 2) go to the seartch box (Ctrl-K), 3) paste it there (Ctrl-V), and then 4) select all and cut it from there sans-formatting (Ctrl-A, Ctrl-X). It sounds like a lot, but I do this all from the keyboard and its actually rather quick.

    • ??????Walkman??????
      February 23, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Ctrl-(CKVAX)
      You could probably make an AHK utility that maps a hotkey to that combination, making it even faster :P

  17. Paul R
    February 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    I use Office (the first example) 2010. Love its paste options.

    When that doesn't do it (occasionally I find PDFs from hell that insert formatting that would survive a crematorium) I use Stripmail. I copy the text I need, open up the small stripmail utility, click on a Do It All button, and the unformatted text is then transferred to my clipboard (and Stripmail itself gets minimized). Love this utility, been using it for years. I emailed the guy once, asking if he wanted donations, he said no, its just a hobby for him, doesn't need the cash.

    Pretty cool.

    • Ben S
      February 6, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      That's awesome! I love when developers fill a need that a lot of people have. So cool of him not to accept cash either.

      Thanks for your comment and letting me know about this tool!

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