The Office Clipboard

October 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Many people are unaware that when they cut or copy some text while using Microsoft Word (or any of the other MS Office programs, such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Access), the cut / copied text is stored both in the Windows clipboard and in a separate Office clipboard. Although it is similar to the regular Windows clipboard, the Office clipboard has additional functionality. It allows you to store up to 24 of your most recently copied or deleted items, and it also lets you paste one or more of those items into another Office program.

Word 2007

In Word 2007, you can open the Office clipboard in a couple of different ways: by clicking the dialog launcher in the Clipboard group at the very left side of the Home tab or by pressing and releasing the Alt key, then tapping the H, F, and O keys in sequence.

Alternatively, you can configure the Office clipboard to open when you press Ctrl C twice. I’ll explain how momentarily.

The clipboard opens in a separate pane at the left side of your screen. You can adjust the width of the pane by moving the mouse pointer across the right border until you see a double arrow, then pressing and holding the left mouse button and dragging to the right or to the left. If you like, you can reposition the pane by dragging it via its title bar.

As you copy or cut text from your open programs, each copied or cut item is stored in the clipboard in sequence, with the newest item at the top. (An interesting note: In my tests, text that I copied or cut from WordPerfect went into the MS Office clipboard alongside items I had copied or cut from Word and Excel.) If you go beyond the limit of 24 items, Word automatically removes entries, starting with the oldest one.

With the clipboard displayed, it’s easy to paste an item from the Office clipboard into Word (or another Office program). Simply position the cursor where you want the item to appear, locate the item in the clipboard, and click it. Or you can click the drop-down that appears when you hold the mouse pointer over an item and then click the Paste command. If you are working simultaneously in — and pasting between — different Office programs, note that the contents of the clipboard will be identical in each program.

When you paste an item from one Office program into another, be aware that the item will retain the formatting you used in the source document / program, rather than automatically taking on the formatting of the destination document / program. So, for instance, when I pasted some text from Excel 2007 into Word 2007 using the Office clipboard, the pasted text displayed in Calibri (the default font in Excel), even though I’ve changed the default font in my copy of Word 2007 to Times New Roman. However, if your version of Word is configured so that the Paste Options icon appears when you paste text, it’s easy to apply the formatting of the destination document by clicking the Paste Options drop-down and then choosing Match Destination Formatting. To enable (or disable) the Paste Options button, click the Office button, Word Options, Advanced, scroll to “Cut, copy and paste,” then check (or uncheck) “Show Paste Options buttons.”

There is a “Paste All” button at the top of the clipboard pane. If you click it, all of the items in the clipboard will be pasted at once at the cursor position. Note that they will appear in reverse order — that is, from oldest to newest. I’m not sure how useful that option is, but it’s worth knowing about just in case.

There is also a “Clear All” button at the top of the pane that you can click if you want to remove all of the items currently stored in the clipboard. Doing so will empty the Windows clipboard, too. (Essentially, the Windows clipboard holds the most recently copied or cut item, which is replaced each time you copy or cut another item.) You can remove individual entries from the Office clipboard by clicking the drop-down for an entry — or by right-clicking the entry — and then clicking “Delete.”

At the bottom of the clipboard pane, there is an “Options” button. It offers the following choices:

  • Show Office Clipboard Automatically
  • Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl + C Pressed Twice
  • Collect Without Showing Office Clipboard
  • Show Office Clipboard Icon on Taskbar
  • Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying

The first two options work in tandem. That is, when you check “Show Office Clipboard Automatically,” the “Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl + C Pressed Twice” option also becomes checked (enabled). You must select some text before pressing Ctrl C twice, or the clipboard pane won’t open.

The “Collect Without Showing Office Clipboard” choice worked as expected. It produced pop-up notifications near the clock in the Windows Taskbar indicating that items were being collected (“7 of 24 Clipboard Item Collected”), but the clipboard itself didn’t appear until / unless I opened it with the dialog launcher or the Alt H, F, O keyboard shortcut mentioned toward the beginning of this post.

Obviously, you should uncheck the first two options if you want Word to “Collect Without Showing.”

When “Show Office Clipboard Icon on Taskbar” is checked, a clipboard button appears in the Windows system tray. Double-clicking it opens the clipboard pane; single-clicking it closes the pane again.

If you’ve enabled the “Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying” option, you should see a pop-up confirming that an item has been “Collected” (along with its sequential number in the series of 24 items) whenever you copy or cut some characters. The pop-up appears regardless of whether the clipboard pane is open or closed. It doesn’t appear when you paste text, however.

Word 2003

In Word 2003, the Office clipboard functions the same way as in Word 2007. However, in that version — and presumably in earlier versions, though I haven’t tested anything prior to Word 2003 — you open the clipboard either (1) by clicking the Edit menu, then clicking the Office Clipboard command or (2) by selecting some text and pressing Ctrl C twice. Also, the clipboard pane appears at the right side of the screen by default. Otherwise, there are no notable differences between the way the feature works in Word 2003 and Word 2007.

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