The old Notepad trick: Using Notepad to strip unwanted formatting

Use Notepad to anticipate Word 2010’s paste preview feature

by Tom Bunzel - What I used to call "the old Notepad trick" is interesting to consider at this time because in the new version of Word, Microsoft has introduced the concept of Paste Preview. In the past there was also a small SmartTag that you could use to determine the formatting of a pasted block of text.

With Notepad, however, neither of these features are really necessary. You can bypass any guesswork as to how pasted text will look by stripping its formatting and making it adapt to the styles you have implemented in your Word document.

Here is an example of a list of social media apps in a web page with icons and a web font that you don't necessarily want in your Word document. Instead of pasting it directly into Word…

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You paste the list into Notepad, stripping out the icons and the formatting. CTRL +A and CTRL + C again and paste it into Word.

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And without messing with any SmartTags or previews, you have a generic list that you can easily number or to which you can add bullets.

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There are any number of uses to this technique that I have found very valuable over the years.

One of the most helpful is if you have information in a table that you need in a Word document. Getting rid of table formatting can be a frustrating and time consuming process; pasting the table into Notepad gets rid of everything but the text.

Another good reason to use it from a web page to Word is if you don't want hyperlinks showing in the document as clickable, but just as references, perhaps in an Appendix. Again, pasting it into Notepad strips out the hyperlink formatting and leaves plain text in Word.

Another way this can be used to good advantage is when you have a number of documents, perhaps chapters of a larger book, whose tables of contents you want to combine into a complete document. When you generate each table of contents it will have its own dot leader and page numbers, that you will want to eliminate in your master table of contents.

By pasting each table of contents into Notepad before assembling them in Word, you remove unwanted references like page numbers, and the very annoying "Bookmark Not Found" error message that happens if you paste them directly into Word and try to print the document.

It's interesting that Word and the rest of Office 2010 has seen fit to give you the Paste Preview option in the new version, and I am sure there are good uses for it. But with Notepad open and available, you don't have to even go through the preview step – just save yourself the hassle of guessing and paste in generic text. One final suggestion – don't forget to use Format Painter in Word to apply whatever format or style you want to the pasted text.

Whether getting text from the Web, ordinary tables, or tables of contents, or any other troublesome formatted text, using Notepad as a paste intermediary is a great time saver.

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