Monday, September 7, 2009

Edit > Paste Special

I think this is one of the true secrets of good communication online – give people something usable (and don’t create huge files/emails in the process). The good news and bad news about copying and pasting in Windows is the same: it’s easy. Unfortunately this seemingly simple act causes untold problems down the digital line. I address a few here (and how to avoid them):

Copying text or a table from Excel. If you are pasting into Word, no problem, but if you’re pasting rows and columns of text into any none-Microsoft product, you probably will end up pasting a picture of text, not real text. The solution: use Edit > Paste Special > Paste as Text (or sometimes Paste as HTML). Why does this matter: because someone else might like to actually copy and use that text, and cannot if you only send them pictures of letters.

Copying a graph from Excel. Even with other MS apps, Excel doesn’t always play well with others. Ever wonder why that PowerPoint file is 18 MBs? It might be all those charts you copied and pasted from Excel. The problem is that Excel not only copies the chart, but also the entire rest of the file (every tab, every worksheet). In addition to making your PP file huge, it can also reveal information you might not want other people to see. The solution: Use Edit > Paste Special > Paste as Picture. This ensures that only the chart comes in, not all the other stuff in the file.

Sometimes it helps to have an intermediary app to paste stuff into before going to the final destination. For example, a screen shot (Alt-Prnt Scrn) is often a 24-bit image (there’s a lot of information for each pixel), which equals a large file, especially if you have a bunch in a single Word file. The solution: Copy the screen dump into Paint first (Start > Programs > Accessories > Paint), unselect it, then recopy into your Word doc. The resulting copy will have less bit-depth, and result in a smaller Word file.

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