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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 2 Issue 6 June 2008
In This Issue
Cut, Copy, and Paste - What's it all about?
I Recommend...
Cut, Copy, and Paste are really useful, time-saving functions. If you've been wondering what they're all about, here's my advice on how to get started. If you're already an avid user, read on, you may well learn something new.
Cut, Copy, and Paste - What's it all about?

Why bother with Copy and Paste?
Retyping text not only takes up needless time in the moment, but it can also introduce mistakes that can cause problems and confusion later. I use Copy and Paste a lot, especially when I'm writing a document or an email:
  • To copy a word, or phrase, or paragraph from one part of a document to somewhere else within the same document
  • To copy some text from one document into a separate document
  • To copy an email address from an email or web site into my address book
  • To copy a complicated web address from my web browser into an email, or from a document into my web browser
  • To copy a street address, zip code, or phone number from one letter to another
  • To enter a tricky term, name, or phrase I'm writing about multiple times in the same article
The Basics of Copy and Paste
Here's how to use Copy and Paste:

Step 1: Select some text
Step 2: Pull down the Edit menu and choose Copy
Step 3: Click somewhere else
Step 4: Pull down the Edit menu and choose Paste

What this does is create a copy of the selected text in another place just as if you had retyped it, but with a fraction of the time and effort. You never have to use it, but it's quite useful.

Each of these steps sounds very simple, but there's some depth to this that isn't obvious.

Step 1: Select some text
The simplest way to select text is to click-and-drag with your mouse to highlight the text you want, character by character as you drag. Just remember that when you click, you're clicking between characters, not on them. You can also select an entire word by double-clicking that word, and if you double-click-and-drag, you can select by whole words as you drag. In some programs (Microsoft Word and others), triple-clicking selects an entire paragraph, and triple-click-and-drag lets you select by whole paragraphs.

Also, some of the time you'll find that you want to select all of the text in your document. While you can certainly click-and-drag across the entire text, a more efficient way is to pull down the Edit menu and choose Select All.

You can select text in a number of places. Here are some common ones:
  • An email you've received
  • An email you're composing but haven't sent yet (*)
  • An email you've already sent
  • A Word document (*)
  • A PDF file
  • A web site
  • The address of a web site (*)
  • The name of a file or folder on your hard disk (*)
Note that while all of these places contain text you can select, only some of these places contain text that you can edit (*).

Step 2: Pull down the Edit menu and choose Copy
The Copy function doesn't give you any feedback to know that it has occurred, but what it does is place a copy of your selected text onto the "Clipboard." Think of this as a piece of memory that acts as a kind of "spoon," picking up and holding a copy of this text until you're ready to Paste. In most programs Copy replaces the contents of the Clipboard with your new selection each time.

I normally don't emphasize keyboard shortcuts, but if you use Copy and Paste a lot, it can be a major time-saver to use the shortcuts and avoid the menus:
  • Cut: Ctrl-X (Command-X on Macintosh)
  • Copy: Ctrl-C (Command-C on Macintosh)
  • Paste: Ctrl-V (Command-V on Macintosh)
These are adjacent keys on QWERTY keyboards.

It's rare, but be aware that PDF files can be protected so that even though you can select text, the Copy command is disabled. I've noticed this most often in PDF manuals for Epson and Canon printers.

Step 3: Click somewhere else
Before you Paste, you need to position the insertion point (that vertical blinking line) at the location where you want the Paste to occur, usually by clicking with your mouse or using the arrow keys on your keyboard. Since Paste is equivalent to (but better and faster than) typing, you can only do this within an area of text you are permitted to edit, such as a document or an email you're in the process of writing. If you don't do this, the Paste command will be grayed out. Alternatively, if you want the text you'll be Pasting in to replace some existing text, you would select the existing text instead of positioning the insertion point.

Step 4: Pull down the Edit menu and choose Paste
The Paste function essentially takes the text on the Clipboard and inserts it into your current text location, "pouring out" what's in the "spoon" and pushing any following text to the right, as if you had done the typing yourself. However, unlike a real-life spoon it doesn't actually empty out the Clipboard, so you can Paste again and again to get multiple copies of whatever's on the Clipboard.

Cut-and-Paste vs. Copy-and-Paste
In Step 2 above, if you choose Cut instead of Copy you'll perform a Cut-and-Paste. The Cut function is similar to Copy in that it also places a copy of your selected text onto the Clipboard for later Pasting, but it has a major difference: It also deletes your selected text from its original location. Thus, Cut-and-Paste moves your text, whereas Copy-and-Paste clones your text. This also means that you can only use Cut in places containing text that you can not only select but also edit.

How Paste handles formatting (fonts, bold, italic, centering, etc.)
When you Cut or Copy text to the Clipboard, if that text has formatting (fonts, bold, centering, etc.) then that information is also placed on the Clipboard. If the location you Paste into can handle that information, your text will usually arrive with its formatting intact. However, there are some tricky situations:
  • If you Copy text in the "Normal" style (default font settings) from one Microsoft Word document and Paste it into another Word document that has different "Normal" settings, Word will use the destination document's formatting. For example, you might Copy text that is Times 12 bold from one document, only to find that it becomes Palatino 14 italic when Pasted into another document.
  • Sometimes (especially with web pages) the formatting of the text you Copy can be so complicated that when you Paste, you might get very strange results or your computer may hang.
If you're using Microsoft Word (or Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Entourage), you can avoid these problems by using the "Paste Special..." command. It lets you choose which portion of the Clipboard you want to insert. The "cleanest" choice is "Unformatted Text."

Cut, Copy, and Paste of things that aren't text
While text is the most common type of data, depending on the software you're using you may find yourself working with:
  • pictures or photos (pixels)
  • spreadsheet cells (multiple chunks of text arranged in rows and columns)
  • drawings (discrete elements such as lines, shapes, charts, graphs, chunks of text, pictures, etc.)
  • sound (voice recordings, music)
  • animation (sequences of pictures)
  • video (pictures, sound, titles, transitions, etc.)
While these types of data are more complicated, the same basic technique applies: Select, Cut or Copy, Click somewhere else, Paste.

Where to go from here
  • Do you find yourself retyping things more than you should, or writing email or web addresses you receive onto scraps of paper to type back in later? Try Copy-and-Paste or Cut-and-Paste and you'll probably find that your productivity and accuracy will improve.
  • The next time you want to send someone an email address, a web address, a snippet of something you read (or wrote), use Copy-and-Paste!
  • Want to use multiple Clipboards in Microsoft Word (or any other Office program, such as Excel)? On Windows, pull down the Edit menu and click "Office Clipboard...." On Macintosh, pull down the Tools menu and click "Scrapbook."
If you know someone else who might find this helpful, please feel free to forward it to them.
If you have any comments about this article, send me a reply!
If you have a topic that you'd like me to write about, I'd love to hear about it!
I Recommend...

In this section of my newsletter I will sometimes recommend trusted colleagues and other times I'll suggest useful products and software. Today's recommendation is:

Anna Huckabee Tull
Custom Crafted Songs
15 Garrison Avenue
Somerville, MA 02144

Anna is a long-time client of mine who offers a very unique and compelling product. She writes songs on commission for individuals, to mark meaningful transitions and events in their lives, and then she records them professionally on CD. She's been doing this type of songwriting work for 10 years now. She's an accomplished psychologist and singer/songwriter, with 5 nationally published CDs. People from all over the world seek her out to have her fuse her empathic skills as a psychologist and her intuitive skills as a musician to create songs that mark meaningful passages and, in many cases, help to heal painful events.

She has composed a song for a tribe in Ghana, Africa, to mark the dedication of a fresh water well. She has written a song for a father dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, who wanted to leave behind a song for his young daughter. She has written lullabies for new babies, and first dance songs for couples' weddings. This month she's in the process of composing a song for a 40th wedding anniversary, one for a young mother struggling with cancer, and a "signature song" for a public speaker.

Each month she also publishes an email newsletter with a free downloadable song-and-story about a song that someone has commissioned, and the tale of how it came to be and how the song was received. You can join her free Song of the Month email list by sending her an email, and you can see the current and past ones on her web site. On her home page, click on the star labeled "Click for this month's song-story."

Anna's tagline is "If you could commission a song about anything...What would it be?" Many people have answered that question and the result has turned out to be a song that blew them away. Check out her web site, you'll find numerous, compelling examples of her work, and testimonials from the many people who loved what she created for them.

Here's how to contact Anna:
(617) 629-0205

Tell her I sent you!
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Copyright (C) 2008 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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