Copy paste – Part 14 – Explore Paste Special in Word

Copy paste goes wrong often while working with multiple word documents. Here is how to get it right – every time.

Question. Do you use styles in Word?

If the answer is NO, then we need a quick primer. If you already use styles, skip this section. Remember one general rule about using Office efficiently.

Office is created to help us. We are not born to help Office!

Sounds funny? It is not. Read on …

When we create Word documents, there is regular content and then there are topics and subtopics (headings or sub-headings). We usually format these topics manually to make them look prominent. That is a complete waste of time. That is what I call “we are trying to help Word”. Why? Because we think it is not capable of understanding what we want.

Trust me – just expect a little more from Word (and Office). You have no idea how much effort has gone into creating the product. Even the smallest and rarest inconvenience is taken care of.

To cut a long story short, just type the heading and click Heading 1 in the Styles dropdown in Home tab.


There are up to 9 levels of headings. If you use styles you get many benefits like automatic navigation pane, table of contents, automatic numbering, ability to rearrange document just with drag drop of headings, ability to create a presentation automatically and so on. I will write a separate series on Styles.

But for now just start using styles instead of manual formatting.

Copy paste in Word

Word works like this. There is the copied content (from source) and the destination where you are pasting it. If there is no style used in either, then it keeps the source formatting. If styles are used, it tries to merge the styles.

Copy paste without usage of styles


Now if you select and copy something from source to destination – what do you expect? It should adjust to the blue surroundings. Unfortunately, the default is – Keep Source Formatting. Therefore, this is what happens.


The answer is obvious if you have read the Copy Paste series of articles.

If not, notice that small little icon. Click on it.

Merge Formatting merges the paragraph level formatting and keeps the character level formatting (Bold, Italic, etc is applied and remembered at character level).

paste special in word

Choosing Keep Text Only (A) achieves the desired effect because it only pastes the raw text so that the local formatting is fully applied.


This is how it works – even across documents where styles are not used.

Remember that you can use the keyboard shortcut CTRL T.

Copy pasting when styles are used

This is relevant only while copy-pasting across different documents.

If source style is different than destination style, then the default option is
Use Destination Style. The logic is simple – the pasted text looks uniform.

Copy paste with styles - paste special in word

The source Heading 1 style (brown) was adjusted to match
the destination Heading 1 style (blue). Notice that the formatting manually applied to the paragraph was retained. You will have to handle that separately.

If you want you can choose other options Keep Source Styles, Merge Formatting, Keep Text Only. But in case of style conflict, the default option works best.

Setting default paste

Word is a very sophisticated word-processor. Therefore, it provides very granular control over copy paste. Click the Set Default Paste… option and see for yourself.

Set default paste in Word

There are four possible options. You can change the settings independently. I suggest that you try changing the first two options to Keep Text Only if you do lot of cross-document copy paste without using styles. The third and fourth option defaults are usually appropriate.

Try how it impacts your copy paste effectiveness. If it is not satisfactory, you can tweak the settings as required.

For IT professionals

I have not checked this personally. But I think you can set these defaults using group policy for Office 2013. Yes. In case you have not noticed it, Office has been providing full Group Policy integration using ADM files since 2003. High time you explored and used it to improve efficiency. Will write an article about it later.

In the next article I will discuss more Copy Paste settings available in Word

How to open a file?

No I am not joking. There are many ways of opening files which we don’t know about – and that leads to lot of inefficiency. So here it is.

Open a file with the intention of saving it as a copy

This is a common problem. Let us say you have a presentation with some notes or links. You want to send it to a customer. But you don’t want the notes and linked data to go with the file. So what do you do?

  • Open it with the intention of saving it as a copy
  • As soon as you open it you get distracted into removing notes and links
  • Then suddenly you realize that you are doing all this to the original file
  • Then you panic and suddenly save the file as a reflex action
  • Now you have deleted stuff in the original file itself!

Sounds familiar?

What was wrong? You should have first created a copy and opened it for editing. We don’t do that. We just go to File – Open – Choose the file and click Open button.

This is a common mistake.

Open a File - Menu Drop Down

The obvious solution is to first make a copy of the file and open the copy. But that is additional work. So Microsoft created a very nice feature to help you.

Have you ever noticed the dropdown next to the Open button? Try it and you will be surprised.

Open as Copy

Just choose Open as Copy. That’s it.

More options

Most of the options you see there are obvious. Some of them require an explanation.

Open in Protected View

This is a new feature for Office 2013. It allows you to view a file  without running any potentially dangerous code. So even if you don’t have an anti-virus application loaded, you can safely view this file. This view is default for downloaded files or mail attachments. But if you suspect any file – you can open it in Protected View.

Open and Repair

This option has been there for a long time. This is used to recover text from corrupted files – files which refuse to open because they are damaged.

Open with transform

When you are opening an Extensible Markup Language (XML) file and you need to apply an Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformation file to the XML file, click Open with Transform and browse to the XSL file that you need.

Making it easier to open common files and folders

Office 2007 onwards has pin options in the File – Open dialog. If you notice that you are opening the same file frequently, you can PIN it to the open file list. That way, it will not disappear if you open more files.

Remember that folders can also be pinned.

Open a File - Recent Documents

Taskbar Pinning

Taskbar also allows common files to be pinned. The benefit is that clicking on a pinned file opens the application as well as the file.

Open a File - File Pinning

Related Articles

Have you noticed Recent File List (MRU) options?
How to open files quickly – Part 2


Quick Access Toolbar – Practical Usage

In the last post we saw how to customize the Quick Access Toolbar. I am sure you will add useful buttons there. Notice that the toolbar buttons and the file name share the same title bar.


Here is a quick dose of some terminology you need to know.

Quick Access Toolbar

Problem: Too many Quick Access Toolbar buttons – file name is cut off

When you add more and more buttons, the file name gets pushed to the right. At some point, long file names will not be seen fully.

Microsoft Office Ribbon

Solution is simple. Right click on the QAT and choose Show the Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon

Now the toolbar moves below the ribbon and the filename is not disturbed.

Quick Access Toolbar below Ribbon

For the curious reader… The question is, why did Microsoft not place the QAT below the ribbon by default? That is because, most people don’t understand what QAT is and never customize it. In that case, the extra space which the QAT would occupy below the ribbon would be a waste of precious screen space.

Keyboard shortcuts

In the previous article we saw the need for having keyboard shortcuts for commonly used buttons which do not have a built-in keyboard shortcut. Add those buttons to QAT and then customize QAT to rearrange them so that the most commonly used buttons are in the first nine positions. Remove the three default buttons (Save, Undo and Redo) because they already have keyboard shortcuts.

Now press and release the ALT key and see what happens…

Alt Key and Keyboard Shortcut

All QAT items get a keyboard shortcut key. Press 5 in this case to enable (or disable) Guides. This is how we get a keyboard shortcut for keys which do not have a keyboard shortcut – without programming.


Sharing custom toolbars with your team

Now that your custom toolbar is helping you, others in your team or department may also benefit from it. So how do you make them efficient?

One method is to ask them to read these articles and customize their own toolbars. But on second thoughts, why not give them your custom toolbar save them some trouble?

This is how you share your customized toolbar with others.

Right click on the toolbar – Customize Quick Access Toolbar – Export – Save a file.

Send the file to your team. Ask them to import it. That’s it.

For IT professionals

In case you are wondering, you can use a combination of Group Policy and a login script to deploy custom toolbars automatically for users. Refer to this MSDN article for details.

Work Faster with keyboard shortcuts

This is a digression from the Copy Paste series – but it is an extension of the previous post about the Paste Special shortcut (CTRL ALT V).

Problem: We don’t actively try to be more efficient

Here is an example. Try this exercise for two hours when you are working on your PC next time. Start observing which buttons you click on most often. I am sure you already know some of these. But start observing it consciously. I am sure you will find many such buttons across Office tools.

Everyone knows that using a keyboard shortcut is faster and healthier than taking your hand all the way to the mouse and moving and clicking the buttons.

Anyway, now that you have noticed the commonly clicked buttons, the next thought is… can I prevent these mouse clicks by using a keyboard shortcut?

The next question is … does the button have a keyboard shortcut? How do you find the answer to this question?

NO NO. NOT by going to Help and searching for the
Keyboard Shortcuts topic!

The answer is much simpler.

Next time you are about to click on a familiar button –


Wait for ONE SECOND – hover the mouse there.
A tooltip will appear and display the shortcut – if available.

Suggested keyboard shortcuts

How often have you used format painter? Did you know these shortcuts?

Now that you know about CTRL ALT V and the ergonomics behind it, it is no surprise that this one uses SHIFT key along with CTRL!

Homework: Notice keyboard shortcuts and use them

Try this for the next few days and see how convenient this method is. If you find it useful, do post some feedback. That way, I will also gather some live proof of the effectiveness of my simple method of improving efficiency.

What if there is no keyboard shortcut available?

Do you give up? Absolutely not. Right click on the button and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Quick Access Toolbar

Now it will be added next to the Save, Undo and Redo buttons.

Customize Quick Access Toolbar

So what did we achieve? As of now, that button is available to you ALL THE TIME. You don’t have to worry about thinking which menu (Tab) it belongs to. Fine – but you still have to click that button using the mouse. Where is the keyboard shortcut?

Well – here is what you do next. Press and release the ALT button

Alt button

Notice what happens now. All these buttons and the menu tabs show some shortcut keys.

Shortcut keys


From now onwards


means Format Painter

Homework: Create your custom toolbar

Which buttons should you add to Quick Access Toolbar?

Those which you click on often and those which do NOT have a built-in keyboard shortcut.

Over next few days create your custom toolbar.

Post your feedback to let me know if you find it useful.

Also notice that there is a small drop down next to the last button on QAT. Open it and see .. it has something you always wanted!

Warning: You will soon run into various problems

Although this method is very good for creating a custom toolbar and a set of custom keyboard shortcuts, you will have issues soon.

I will cover those in the next article.

Copy Paste – Part 13 – A better shortcut for Paste Special

Most common ways of invoking Paste Special are:

  • Alt E S keyboard shortcut
    This was the older (2003 or before) version shortcut – Alt E = Edit Menu, S was the hotkey for Paste Special
  • Open the dropdown of Paste in Home tab in the ribbon and choose Paste Special
  • Right click – Paste Special

A better shortcut

Although all these methods work, Microsoft added a NEW shortcut since Office 2007. Most people don’t discover it. The shortcut is

Paste special shortcut

Why should you use this shortcut?

The reason is simple. Paste Special is a variation of Paste. Paste shortcut is CTRL V. For Paste Special CTRL ALT V is more intuitive. It is definitely better than using mouse anyway.

But there is more to it.

Compare the actual act of pressing the older shortcut –

Paste special shortcut

On the fact of it, there are three keys to be pressed in either case. So what is the difference?

Let me show you the difference using a keyboard layout.

You try pressing Alt E S using left hand and see the position of fingers.

Now compare it with CTRL V and CTRL ALT V

Usually we press CTRL key using little finger and V using index finger. The middle finger is anyway resting near ALT key. Look at the photo on left side – I have intentionally flexed the middle finger to expose the Alt key.

You just have to decide is it Paste or Paste Special at the last moment. If it is paste, don’t press the middle finger, if it is paste special – just press the middle finger (right side photo)


Another alternative is little finger for Ctrl, Index finger for V and thumb for Alt – which is also convenient. You try it out yourself and choose the method which is most comfortable to you.

This is ergonomics!

Imagine the amount of effort the Office team is taking to make our life easier and healthier… it is just that we simply don’t notice these things and therefore are not able to utilize the products effectively.

By the way, the imageshortcut works across ALL Office products. Including Project and Visio.

No Paste Special option in OneNote. Why?

It does not work for OneNote because OneNote does not have Paste Special functionality at all. It does not mean that you cannot choose the paste format in OneNote. It does offer four paste options as expected:


In that case, the question is – why did Microsoft not choose a default format for paste and provide Paste Special in OneNote (like all other products)? Just to avoid a Paste Special dialog? That does not sound like a good reason.

This is my guess but I think that is the logical explanation.

The reason OneNote does not have two separate options – Paste and Paste Special – because :

  1. OneNote is used for various types of copy paste from diverse sources. And it is a comparatively new product – and most people don’t even know that it exists – even if they have it installed! Therefore, Microsoft did not / could not finalize a default format based upon common user behavior pattern.
  2. If you have started right clicking instead of Paste or Paste Special – as recommended in my earlier article, you will realize that the demarcation between paste and paste special is simply irrelevant.

Next article

Although the Copy Paste series is far from over, I will deviate from it and show you how to find useful keyboard shortcuts and reduce the damage to your wrist and tendons (which can happen due to excessive usage of mouse, among other things).

Copy Paste – Part 12 – Reorder Content with Shift Alt Up/Down

The need

We often write in the order in which it comes to our mind. We then tend to reorder content by copy pasting it. There is a better method.

Just remember these very powerful shortcuts

Reorder content - keyboard shortcut for moving a bullet, line, paragraph, table row

Shift Alt Up / Down Arrow

Whenever you write content or text with paragraphs, in any Office product, you can use the Shift Alt Up and Down arrows to move it up or down.

This works with:

  1. Word paragraphs. DO NOT select the paragraph. Just click inside and use the shortcut
  2. Word Tables – reordering table rows is extremely painful if done manually. Try this shortcut and you will curse yourself for not knowing it for so many years!
  3. Word Outline view to reorder entire Headings or Sub-headings (provided these are collapsed)
  4. PowerPoint bullets
  5. PowerPoint SmartArt Text Editor
  6. Outlook (because it uses Word as the editor)
  7. OneNote
  8. It does NOT work with PowerPoint tables. Because these are more of graphical elements and not formal tables.
  9. Excel is a grid – therefore this method does not in Excel as well.

Shift Alt Right and Left Arrow

This is even more powerful.


In case of Word, by pressing Shift Alt Left arrow, you actually promote the heading style – or apply Heading1 Style.

If you use Shift Alt Right arrow, it demotes the style (and outline level)

This is the fastest way of creating documents with styles. No need to click on styles or use keyboard shortcuts which are more complex (Ctrl Alt 1 2 or 3).


Like Word, it can be used for promoting and demoting bullets.

Usually to create sub-level bullets we use TAB key. But that works just after a fresh new bullet is added. If you are somewhere in the middle of a paragraph, pressing TAB key will actually insert a tab and increase spacing.

However, Shift Alt Left / Right arrows work irrespective of where your cursor is.

Now the most powerful usage in PowerPoint is to edit hierarchical information in SmartArt Editor. Try to insert a SmartArt of type – Hierarchy – choose some Org Chart and then go to the editor. You can easily promote or demote items very quickly using this shortcut key.

Try these simple yet powerful shortcuts. Let me know your feedback. If you find more uses for this shortcut, do let me know.

Copy Paste – Part 11 – Why do we need 24 clipboards?

In the earlier post, we saw how to get up to 24 clipboards. But why would you need so many of them?

On the face of it, this sounds like an overkill. We are happily using ONE clipboard for years. So it is looks like a useless feature.

Key Learning: There is nothing like a useless feature

This is a very important thing to remember. Adding a feature is a very complex and costly process. Microsoft is not going to add a new feature if it was not serving any purpose.
Those of you who understand programming know that behind every feature there is a need, a problem or a use case. Unfortunately, when you use a product developed by someone else, the feature is visible first and the underlying need may not be apparent.

So what do we do? We do it in two steps.
First, we learn the functionality – what does it do? In this case we already know that. At this stage you know the technical feature. But that is NOT called knowledge. That is partial knowledge.
The next step is more important. You must find the underlying need or problem it is trying to address. Why do you care? Simple! Because it may be your need. If you do not discover the need, you may never use the feature in spite of understanding how it works technically.

Finding your needs behind every feature is called Applied Learning!

Of course, there may will be features which you do not need in your current context. But in any case, if you know when they are useful, you will be able to use them if the need arises in future.

Multiple Clipboards: Usage Scenarios

Word: Executive Summary

Executive Summary  contains key sentences which summarize details from the document. We write Executive Summary AFTER the rest of the document is created. Here is how you can do it faster.

  1. Write the document
  2. Activate Office Clipboard
  3. Move through the document, select key sentences and copy
  4. Continue the process till end of the document (or 24 clipboards)
  5. Go to Executive Summary and choose Paste All
  6. Each copy will be a separate paragraph
  7. If you want to combine these paragraphs into one paragraph, follow this sub-task
    1. Select all the Executive Summary
    2. Press Ctrl H (Find – Replace)
    3. Type ^p^p in the Find textbox
    4. Type ^p in the Replace textbox
    5. Click Replace All
    6. We will discuss how this works in a separate article (Word Find and Replace is a treasure. Very powerful, but very rarely used appropriately)
  8. Now your Executive Summary is ready

Excel: Combine Tabular Data

Very often we get tabular data from multiple files or sheets (regions, locations, months,etc). How do you combine this into a single master data sheet?

Copy – Paste to Master, Copy – Paste to Master, Copy – Paste to Master and so on.

Now you know what to do

  1. Enable Clipboard
  2. Copy  – Copy – Copy
  3. Go to destination
  4. Paste ALL

PowerPoint: Collect Pictures and arrange them using SmartArt (Picture Layout)

This is a very powerful method. Let us say you are browsing for various products and you want to capture many images and put them on one slide. Another scenario would be logos of your customers.

Here is how you do it.

    1. Start PowerPoint
    2. Activate Clipboard
    3. Go to browser and copy various images as required. Right click the image and choose Copy (CTRL C will not work here as it is a web page and the focus may be ambiguous)image
    4. In PowerPoint add a new slide
    5. Choose Paste All
    6. Unfortunately that does not solve your problem
    7. All images will be overlapping one anotherimage
    8. But don’t worry. PowerPoint knows your problems.
    9. While all the pictures are selected, just choose Picture Tools – Picture Layout and choose a layout you want. (You can hover mouse over each to temporarily draw the picture layout and choose the best one. You can also do it later)clipboards Powerpoint
    10. Now, depending upon the overall area occupied by all selected pictures, PowerPoint will layout the pictures automatically
    11. Resize the area as desiredimage
    12. Now it is a SmartArt object
    13. You can click on Design and change the layout if needed
    14. Finally, you will need to add captions for each picture
    15. DO NOT click in the textboxes to add them.. there is a small edit arrow (double or single arrow) on the left margin of the SmartArt bounding box
    16. Click that and add titles

Can you think of more usage scenarios?

If you find more scenarios, please post them here. I will also learn something new.

Next Article

There is more to copy paste and the series is not ending any time soon. But I am sure you want some variation. So next article will be something different. We will continue the Copy Paste series later.