Paste Special

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I needed to write about this. When you want to copy things from one place to another on the computer, copy/paste is a common way to get that done. I can copy some text out of an email and paste it into a Word document. Or I can copy some text from a web page and paste it into an email.

Paste SpecialBut what if I don’t want an exact copy? Maybe the email message is using Verdana as the font, and my Word document is in boring old Times New Roman. Or maybe that web page has blue text. I don’t want that in my email message.

This is where Paste Special comes in handy.  Depending on the program and the type of data, paste special will give you some different options. In Microsoft Word, for example, I frequently use “unformatted text”. This pastes the text without the formatting.  If you’ve ever pasted something from a web page, and then struggled to get the formatting to match the rest of your document, this is what you needed.

In Excel, I use paste special when I want to separate the data from the formulas that generated it. I copy the cells I want, and then use paste special, selecting “values.” This replaces the formula in each cell with the data generated by the formula. It’s especially useful when working with data from multiple sources to generate a single spreadsheet. By doing this, we don’t have to worry about keeping the connections between those files intact.

When I taught middle school, I caught a lot of kids plagiarizing text from the Internet because the fonts and text sizes didn’t match the rest of the document. If they had known about paste special, I would have had to actually do a web search to catch them. 🙂