Making Good Use of “Paste Special” in Office Suite

Have you ever tried copying (Ctrl + c) and pasting (Ctrl + v) some information from a webpage or email to a word document only to have the pasted content not appear in the same style as the rest of the document? The reason this occurs is that the original html formatting in the copied content is retained in the process.

Thankfully, there is a way to paste content without retaining the original formatting; this feature is called “Paste Special.” It also provides some useful options when pasting images into a document. You can Paste Special by pressing “Ctrl + Alt + V” in the Microsoft Office suite and a number of other applications. This article will show you how Paste Special can be used in two of the most popular Office apps – Word & Excel. Please note that this guide is tailored to Microsoft Office 2010 and above.

Microsoft Word 2010 or Above

Copying text from webpage or email into Word Document

1. Once you have copied some text from a webpage to the clipboard (Ctrl + C), in a Word Document, navigate to Home and select the arrow below Paste – Paste Special (or press Ctrl + Alt + V).


2. The Paste Special dialog box will appear as below:

3. By default, the HTML format option is highlighted as we are copying text from a webpage. If we continued pasting with this option selected, the copied text would keep its html formatting and most likely look completely out of place in the document as per the image below.


4. Instead, select the “Unformatted text” option to remove the html formatting and set it to the default settings in the document.


Copying images from webpage or email to Word Document

1. If you are compiling images into a document from the Internet or email, an issue can arise where the image copied is a large file. For example, images embedded in email attachments are usually bmp (bitmap) files, which are one of the largest quality image files available. To lessen the quality of the graphics, Paste Special can be utilised. The Paste Special dialogue box should give you the following options:


2. Instead of copying the image in its html format as highlighted above, selecting another type of image format such as GIF, PNG or JPEG ensures that the graphic size of the image is reduced. As a result, the overall file size of your document shrinks, which is very useful if emailing the document.

Microsoft Excel 2010 or Above

For those of us who regularly mess around in spreadsheets, Paste Special can be a big productivity boon. A few Excel-specific Paste Special techniques are shown below.

Transposing Data

1. A fairly common data cleanup issue in Excel is the transposing of data. For example, to make the columns of our data into rows, highlight the original data and press “Ctrl + C”.


2. Navigate to an empty data area of your spreadsheet and press “Ctrl + Alt + V”. As Paste Special opens, click Transpose.


3. A transposed copy of the table will now appear in the spreadsheet.


Auto Calculations

Paste Special can be applied when needed to perform simple calculations such as multiply, subtraction or addition across multiple cells at the same time. In the example, we need to subtract 20 from values in B3-B10.

1, In an empty cell, type in the value 20 and press CTRL + C


2. Highlight cells B3-B10 and press CTRL + ALT + V. In the Paste Special dialog box, select Subtract under the Operation heading. Click OK.


3. Cells A1-A20 now have 20 subtracted from their total values.


3. Formatting of graphs

If you need to showcase multiple charts, then it is important that the colour, font, and scales are uniform throughout. However, styling each chart to match could get extremely tedious. Thankfully, Paste Special comes in handy again.

In the example below, we want to convert the Vegetable Tally graph to look like the Fruit Tally pie chart.


1. Select the pie chart and press Ctrl + C. Select the bar graph and enter Ctrl + Alt + V.


2. When the Paste Special dialog box opens, select Formats.


3. The Vegetable Tally bar graph has now been formatted to resemble a pie chart like Fruit Tally.



As the examples above illustrate, Paste Special can deliver some great productivity improvements. Complicated or repetitive formatting tasks, particularly in excel spreadsheets, can be resolved with a simple click of the button in most cases. While we mention only its usage in Microsoft Office, it can also be used in many different applications, including Gmail. We suggest giving it a try the next time you copy text from the Internet to a word document. Please post in the comments below if you have any questions.

Image credit: Paste Copy Paste Copy


JJ runs a company that specialises in IT Support and cloud IT Solutions in Australia. He also moonlights as a tech blogger.

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