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I regularly copy and paste text between spreadsheets, emails, browser windows, etc. I can't think of a single time when I've wanted to keep the formatting from the source text.

I already know about the following workarounds:

  • Use Edit > Paste Special > Unformatted text
  • Paste to Notepad and copy from there
  • Install a program that takes over the clipboard

What I want is to tell Windows to just do this by default.

Is this possible?

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+1, this annoys me too when using Outlook at work – Jonik Jul 23 '09 at 19:37
Forgive me, but i thought that WAS the default for xp... – RCIX Aug 1 '09 at 15:05
Have a "Copy" and "Copy Special"; and but only "Paste" seems to be the solution. Steven Sinofsky, listening? – Lakshman Prasad Aug 4 '09 at 16:10
I found out a few weeks ago that more and more browsers support CTRL-SHIFT-V as a way to paste non-formatted text. Which helps a lot when I paste text into an e-mail in Gmail! – scraimer Sep 20 '11 at 5:26

11 Answers 11

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Unfortunately, no. And I believe this is by design.

The issue is that the Windows clipboard does not have to store the data. It is effectively a clearing house where any application can list the data that was just copied (or cut) and offer it up to any application (including itself) to be pasted. The clipboard contains a list of formats in which the data is available, and if the application chooses to do so, the data itself in some of those formats.

The application that processes a Paste operation then has the option to choose the data format that best suits it. Some applications (e.g. Notepad) will only accept one particular format (such as plain text) and simply do nothing if that format is not available. Others pick a preferred format by default but provide a UI for choosing among alternatives that can be understood by that application.

In principle a program could be written that monitors the clipboard for new content and flattens any non-text content to just plain text. There is an event available to notify such a monitor of new content on the clipboard. However, I suspect that implementing such a thing would break a fair number of programs, and possibly in surprising ways.

The simple workaround in stock XP is to use Notepad to flatten the data when needed, or to use one of the many tools that improve the clipboard by implementing a stack, providing a view of its content, and so forth.

If you want to try building a tool yourself, might benefit from this question over at SO, and its related questions....

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Thanks - this appears to be the most direct and complete answer to my question. I'm also upvoting the workarounds that look good to me. – Nathan Long Aug 3 '09 at 12:46
Thanks for the great explanation of how the clipboard works, I kinda guessed it worked something like that but never understood it 100%. – DisgruntledGoat Aug 21 '09 at 12:20
Kudos to RBerteig! That was an informative explanation of the status quo. – Ashwin Nanjappa Aug 28 '09 at 3:53

This is a pretty decent compromise: PureText.

PureText screenshot

This may not be a direct answer to what you asked, but this may be of use to someone else with a more general version of your question.

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Thanks for the suggestion. Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a way to change the default setting. Anyone know how? – Nathan Long Jul 28 '09 at 16:18
I've run this app for years. It rocks. – Christopher_G_Lewis Jul 31 '09 at 5:24

There is not way to do this by default, but with a bit of hackery, we can work around that.

You will need:

Create an AutoIt Script with the following code:

$ptcPath = "C:\Program Files (x86)\Plain Text Clipboard\PlainTextClipboard.exe"
HotKeySet("^v", "PastePlainText")

While True ;Keep it running indefinitely.
HotKeySet("^v") ;unregister the hotkey

Func PastePlainText()

When you press Ctrl + V, this will run the PlainTextClipboard program, then send the contents of your clipboard to the current window. Unfortunately, it will send the contents one character at a time, so it is a bit slow. It's a problem I'm working on, but it should serve as a reasonable start. If there are any AutoHotKey/AutoIT gurus out there, feel free to make your own version of this script. I'll update it as soon as I figure out how to solve the problem.

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+1 for making your own. :) – Sasha Chedygov Jul 28 '09 at 21:38
Just in case you didn't figure out a faster way: The AutoHotKey way is shown in the "paste as plain text" in the url below. This is fast because AHK itself is doing the flattening. It does not depend on other programs. I used to use PureText but I like to put this stuff into my already-running AHK script.… – piyo Aug 24 '10 at 13:19

Direct answer. No.

There is no control of the standard clipboard in Windows. This is the reason a lot of applications provide this feature through trapping the pasted text beforehand.

PureText as mentioned already is the way to go.

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I keep running into this too. Other than using/writing a program to strip the extra formatting, the simplest way I've found to strip formatting is by pasting the text into the "Run" windows (reachable by WIN + R) and re-copying it from there.

So I end up doing this, really quickly: CTRL+C, WIN + R, CTRL+V, SHIFT+HOME, CTRL+C, ALT+TAB, CTRL+V - I can't help but wonder now if I've been doing this for too long...

Only works for single-line text, though.

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you forgot to put the win-R command in there between the first ctrl-c and ctrl-v me thinks – fretje Jul 29 '09 at 22:42
You're absolutely right! I'll fix it. – scraimer Aug 4 '09 at 13:12

I can't provide you with a simple solution, but like the others, I will provide you with a workaround:

A shortcut to your first option is to use Ctrl + Alt + v to pop up the Paste Special dialog without using the mouse. Typing u to jump to Unformatted Unicode Text entry (or u u to get to the non-Unicode version) and then Enter will do it for you. Not perfect, but built in.

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Using an app like ClipMate, which is a clipboard manager (& commerical app), you can press the Win + W keys together to clear the formatting of whatever is currently on the clipboard, making it plain text.

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When pasting to Word (probably works in other Office applications as well) you can use Ctrl+Alt+V and then just arrow down to Unformatted Text or Unformatted Unicode Text and press enter. It is the same as going to Paste Special in the menu, but a lot faster :)

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Having checked and a couple more places the consensus I found was that there are no registry tweaks regarding Windows Clipboard behavior. I did find another freeware tool (ArsClip) that can do what you're looking for.

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I'm fond of ClipX - it gives you multiple clipboards, and if you paste text using ClipX, it's been flattened to plain text.

So, you can copy normally, but if you want paste plain text, you hit ctrl-shif-V instead of ctrl-V, and then select the first item to paste it plain. It's free, and it's system wide, so it's about 75% or more of what you want.

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I share your problem. Frustrating, isn't it?

I use [this guide][1] to prepare a visual basic macro and define a shortcut key.


--> This has also been my preferred solution. My VBA Makro is this:

Sub PastePlainText()
    Selection.PasteAndFormat wdFormatPlainText
End Sub

I attached it to the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+V. It works perfectly throughout all Word/Office version that I've been using for more than 10 years now.

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