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Design Consistent Templates and Files in Microsoft Word (Part 2)

In May 2024, Microsoft announced it's changing the way the Paste button works. This is because currently, users will paste content from other sources and end up wasting time fixing the formatting in their document. The article is available to read here


In this blog post, I'm going to explain how the Paste button currently works, what Microsoft's change actually means and what changes you can make in Microsoft Word's options, to make pasting less painful. 


How does the Paste button currently work? 

Microsoft Word pastes in content in different ways, depending on where the content is copied.  


If you copy and paste content from one Word file to another, by default, Word will keep the original formatting - it won't change the formatting to match the document you're pasting into.  


This means Word can mix different formatting styles in the same document - this very inconvenient when you need a file that's formatted consistently and usually means spending time making corrections.  


What Microsoft's change actually means 

Microsoft's proposed change means that, when copying and pasting content from an internet browser or another program, Word will use a different way of pasting, called "Merge Formatting".  


This is already available when users press the arrow under the Paste button and click on the Merge Formatting icon. 

Merge Formatting icon from Paste Options in Microsoft Word (Windows)


The catches in Microsoft's changes are: 

  • This change does not apply to copying and pasting within the same document or between documents. 

  • The change Microsoft proposes is something Microsoft Word users can already make themselves. 

  • Changing the default way the Paste button works is not available for Word for the web or Word for Mac. 

  • It doesn't prevent some key changes to the document being pasted into.  

This change is most beneficial for individuals who:

  • copy and paste regularly from the Internet and other programmes.

  • use Word for Windows and can change the default paste options themselves.

  • edit files from the desktop, with files stored either on drives or synced locally with SharePoint, OneDrive or other online document management systems. 

If you work in a company where multiple Word users will need to edit files and they regularly copy and paste between documents, you will need the Word options changed for every user/device. Those changes could be made by yourself, each user, or an IT department that can roll out the changes to all existing and new users.

Ultimately, the Paste options changes (when copying between documents) can help in many situations and will cause fewer instances of having to remove non-compliant formatting.

However, were you to copy from a document that has multiple sections, you will still face the problem of Microsoft Word regularly replacing existing headers and footers with those from the file you copied from. If the content you're copying has multiple sections and the file is a different page size to the one you're pasting into, your document may also change page size. The order and visibility of styles in your Styles Pane may, on occasion, also change.

As a specialist who creates Microsoft Word templates to stop this from happening, if you want to ensure unintentional changes to your branded templates are blocked, Part 3 in this series will introduce my Word Template Protector service, which could work well for your needs.

What you can do 

PC users 

The video below shows what to do, so you can change the way the Paste button behaves. 

Go to the File menu, then click Options, then Advanced and finally scroll to the "Cut, copy, and paste" section. The drop down menus in the first four lines are the ones you want to change. 


Personally, I change all four dropdown menus to "Merge Formatting", as this causes fewer formatting issues. 


Click OK to finish. 


Mac users 

Whilst the process shown above doesn't exist in Word for Mac, Microsoft Word has still kept the option of choosing a different way of pasting, every time you want to paste something.  


You can either click the arrow on the right-hand side of the Paste button and choose "Match Formatting" or even better, use the keyboard shortcut Command+Option+Shift+V to paste via the "Paste Destination Formatting" command (which is similar to Merge Formatting in Windows). 

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