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Converting Formatted Text from the Clipboard to Plain Text

By August 14, 2009 January 3rd, 2011 Tips & Tricks

Usually when I copy text from web pages, I really don’t want the formatting from the webpage to be kept. I  just want to have the text in the simplest format possible, and then I can set my own styles. Unfortunately, this isn’t normally how it works. Typically, when copying from a web page in a browser, it may also copy any tables, images, and styles that are applied to or mixed with the text. This does depend on where you are pasting the text, though. In my case, I use Microsoft Word most of the time. Word supports a lot of web page elements, meaning they will likely appear in the Word document.

Consider the following text:

This is some example text. You’ll notice that numerous styles are appliedwarning

Here are some bullet points:

  • One
  • Two
  • Three
    • Three Part 1
    • Three Part 2
  • Four

If I wanted to copy that text to Microsoft Word, here is what I’d see:

pastedtoword

Word is pretty good at keeping the formatting mostly intact; however, sometimes, this isn't desired.

The formatting is mostly intact. What if you didn’t want that? What if you just wanted plain text, and you wanted to choose your own styles from scratch? There is one way to do it from within Word (click the wordbutton1 button for these options), but I’ll show you how to do it without such a  feature. To achieve this, I paste the text into Notepad. Yes, Notepad – the simple text editor provided by Windows. Here’s what the text will look like, once pasted:

Notepad will remove formatting from any text you paste into it.

Notice how the image is gone, and all the styles are removed? Now you can copy this text instead, and paste it in Word:

pastedtowordplaintext

No more formatting!

No more styles, bullets, or image. You can now style it exactly as you want, without having to start off with the same formatting as the web page. This isn’t, perfect, though – you may have to make corrections to the plain text copy in Notepad, as the removal of the formatting sometimes leaves the text with improper indentation.

I’ve used this little trick in a few different scenarios. Here’s an example: Sometimes I include a quote from a website in my e-mails. The default format for my e-mails is rich text, but when I include something from another source, I really don’t care about formatting – I’ll set my own formatting to suit my e-mail. If I just copy paste the quote into my e-mail, it will include the formatting – this usually ruins the look of my e-mail. To prevent this, what I do first is use Notepad to destroy the formatting, and then paste the plain-text version into my e-mail.