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Change MS Word's default paste setting to plain text

The two most recent versions of Microsoft's word processor let you paste plain text rather than formatted text and graphics when you press Ctrl-V or click the Paste button.

In the annals of computer history, no two keystroke combinations have done more to boost worker productivity than Ctrl-C to copy to the clipboard whatever you've selected on the screen, and Ctrl-V to paste the contents of the clipboard to wherever you've placed the cursor.

What often follows the paste is the laborious process of reformatting the pasted material to match the look of the destination document. Microsoft Word lets you apply the formatting of the destination document when you paste, but by default Ctrl-V retains the original formatting of the pasted text.

Back in 2007 I described how to create a keystroke combination for pasting plain text in Word. One of the welcomed changes to Word 2007 was the ability to change the program's default paste setting to plain text, which I explained in a post from 2010.

Word 2007 also added a third paste alternative: in addition to retaining the selection's original formatting or pasting only plain text, you can choose to "match the destination formatting" when you paste (Word 2010 renames this option as "merge formatting"). This setting adopts most of the formatting of the destination document but retains bold, italic, and other emphasis formatting of the selection.

More helpful is the preview Word 2010 provides of the three paste options: hover over the buttons in the Paste dialog to see how the clipboard contents will appear after the paste.

Microsoft Word 2010 Paste dialog box
Pass your mouse over the three buttons in Word 2010's Paste dialog box to preview the pasted selection with original formatting, merged formatting, or unformatted. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Make plain text the paste default in Word 2010
Previewing your paste avoids unpleasant surprises when adding material to a document from another source, but nine times out of ten I just want to paste plain text via Ctrl-V: no preview or mouse action required. To change the default paste setting in Word 2007 and Word 2010, open the program's Advanced options.

In Word 2007, click the Office button, then Word Options, then Advanced in the left pane. In Word 2010, click File > Options > Advanced. In both programs, scroll to the "Cut, copy, and paste" section of the Advanced settings.

In the drop-down menus to the right of "Paste between documents" and "Paste between programs," choose Keep Text Only. You can also change the placement of images you paste (the default is to set pasted images in line with the text).

Microsoft Word 2010 Advanced settings: Cut, copy, and paste section.
Select Keep Text Only in the drop-down menus for Word 2010's pasting options to paste plain text in the program when you press Ctrl-V. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Other options in this section let you preserve bullets and numbering when you paste plain text (on by default), use the Insert key to paste (off by default), show the Paste Options button when pasting (on by default), and use smart cut and paste.

Click the Settings button to the right of this last option to access even more paste options. These include automatic adjustment of word, sentence, and paragraph spacing (all but the last on by default); automatic adjustment of table formatting and alignment (on by default); merge formatting when pasting from PowerPoint (on by default); automatic adjustment of data pasted from Excel (off by default); and merge pasted lists with surrounding lists (on by default).

Microsoft Word 2010 smart cut and paste settings
Word 2010's smart cut and paste options let you decide whether to adjust formatting automatically when pasting material from other sources. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

There's probably no need to change Word's default Keep Source Formatting setting for material pasted from the same document. Likewise, you can get away with retaining the source formatting "when style definitions conflict," although I changed this setting to Keep Text Only.

Frankly, I'm not sure what exactly constitutes a style definition conflict or whether I'd be aware of such a conflict if it bit me on the nose. (Any elucidation you can offer on this subject is much appreciated.)