(Similar to my earlier question about Windows XP and darren_n's follow-up for Mac OS X.)

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:

  • In OpenOffice, click “Edit” → “Paste Special” or press Ctrl+Shift+V, then click “Unformatted Text”
  • Paste to Text Editor and copy from there

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

Is this possible?

  • You'd have to modify the way the clipboard works, or the copying functionality of every application ever. Have you tried any alternative clipboard managers?
    – l0b0
    Mar 5, 2012 at 11:17

4 Answers 4


In Ubuntu 11.04 and higher I can use Ctrl-Shift-V to paste plain text.

  • This works in 12.04 as well.
    – Corey
    Mar 12, 2013 at 22:15
  • do you know if/where we can customize this shortcut?
    – chrismarx
    Apr 4, 2014 at 18:28
  • 1
    My Ubuntu is 16.04.2 LTS with KDE and your solution does not work. Maybe there's been some changes over the years, but frankly I think the solution might be specific to your desktop environment and/or clipboard manager. What were they? My bet is there's no universal solution for all of them. May 23, 2017 at 19:43

Personnally I use an intermediate editor window (nedit) that would'nt support formatting. That's far from ideal though.


You should use the select - middleclick action, which on Unix only copies text (and this is cited as a drawback when promoting real copy-paste of rich objects).

What happens (I'm guessing a bit, but I'm fairly sure I'm right) is that OpenOffice recognizes characters in a similar fashion to Markdown (actually, the other way round: OO came first), and formats them.

For example, in OO, if you start typing "* text" and press Enter, you start an unordered bulleted list. Typing - text gets you a bulleted list starting with emdash. 1. text starts an ordered list. All automatically.

So what I mean is that this is not an Ubuntu problem, but the Office Suite trying to DWYM. Which, really, seems the best course here. If I copied your question into OO, I'd prefer the formatting to remain, otherwise I'd copy it into e.g. Vim.

Finally, there are some helpful tips here (basically, add a macro that does what you want, assign it to a key combination of your choice). This should work no matter the OS.


Select your text with the mouse (highlight it), then middle click where you want to paste

  • I just tried that - copied from this question to OpenOffice. It pasted formatted text. Jul 24, 2009 at 11:59
  • You're confusing things. Openoffice decides to paste the text formatted. What you highlight gets copied as plain text, always. The question is not about the OS, but about the OpenOffice suite. Jul 24, 2009 at 12:02
  • Remember, there is no such thing as plain text. joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html Jul 24, 2009 at 12:05
  • @Adriano - I AM confused. If the text were copied as plain text into memory, the formatting would have been removed before OpenOffice ever saw it, right? Jul 24, 2009 at 12:11
  • @Stefan - specifically, I want the pasted text to share the formatting of the destination text, not the source text. Jul 24, 2009 at 12:13

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