Tell me if you’ve had this problem: you copy some text and paste it into a word processor, a spreadsheet, or any other app that supports stylized text and end up with text that looks different than the rest of your text. It may be a different font, font size, or color. Once it’s there, fresh text you add afterward takes on that formatting such that you find yourself fussing with formatting instead of focusing on your writing or editing.
By default, pasting text into many Mac apps brings with it any styling that had been applied. Maintaining text styles is often desirable—particularly when duplicating or moving text around within a document—but it’s often an annoying waste of time when you’re bringing content into a document from another app. In such situations, it’s best if you can paste just the text itself and have it take on the styling of the text around it.
There are numerous ways to solve this problem. Some are free, and others take advantage of a commercial utility that you may already have for another purpose. If the built-in solutions don’t work in your particular workflow, turn to one of the alternatives.
Built-in Solution: Paste and Match Style
Apple has long acknowledged this need with a command in the Edit menu: Paste and Match Style. Many other apps mimic the naming of Apple’s command, although you may also see variants like Paste and Match Formatting (Microsoft Word), Paste Text Only (Nisus Writer Pro), Paste without Formatting (Adobe InDesign), and Paste Without Format (Affinity Publisher).
For something as commonplace as pasting, a keyboard shortcut is welcome, and Apple’s default is Command-Shift-Option-V. That works in many apps, although the slightly simpler Command-Shift-V is also frequently used—it’s what you’ll find in Adobe InDesign, Nisus Writer Pro, and even the Web interface of Google Docs.
For the vast majority of situations, the built-in approach is all you need. Occasionally, however, you’ll find yourself in a situation where there seems to be no way to strip styling while pasting. Here are some alternative approaches that should work anywhere.
Quick and Clunky: Run It through a Plaintext Editor
If you already use a plaintext editor like BBEdit, a simple way to strip that unwanted formatting is to paste the text into a new document, select all, copy again, and paste it in its final destination. This approach works because BBEdit and similar apps pay no attention to text styling—they care only about the characters. It’s a fine workaround for infrequent use, but it’s slow and inefficient.
Pure Paste for Monterey
For a smoother and more flexible way of pasting plain text by default, check out Pure Paste. It lives in your menu bar and, by default, strips formatting from your clipboard automatically. You can override it on a per-copy basis, and it allows you to exclude particular apps for which pasted text should always come in with its formatting. Other options let you optionally preserve HTML links and remove tracking parameters from URLs.
Pure Paste is free, has no ads, collects no personal information, has no network connectivity, and ignores anything copied from a password manager. The only downside is it requires macOS 12.3 Monterey or later.
TextExpander enables you type an abbreviation to expand it into a longer word or phrase. For example, I type
xte instead of
TextExpander. Less well-known is the fact that it can also strip formatting from clipboard text. While I wouldn’t recommend subscribing to TextExpander just for this feature, if you already own it, you can create a snippet that pastes the clipboard contents without formatting. Follow these steps:
- Choose File > New Snippet.
- Make sure the Content menu is set to Plain Text.
- From the little keyboard icon, choose Clipboard to insert the Clipboard token into the snippet.
- In the Label field, give it a name like “Paste Plain Text.”
- In the Abbreviation field, enter the abbreviation you’ll type to invoke the paste.
For the abbreviation trigger, I use
xpt since I prefix all of my TextExpander shortcuts with “x” to make them unique and easy to type on both macOS and iOS.
If you already use Keyboard Maestro to automate actions on your Mac, it too offers the capability to strip formatting when pasting text. It takes only a minute to create a Paste Plain Text macro:
- Choose File > New Macro.
- Enter “Paste Plain Text” in the name field at the top.
- Click the New Trigger button, choose Hot Key Trigger, and press Command-Control-V (or whatever you like).
- Click the New Action button, search for “Filter” in the Actions list, and double-click it to add it to your macro.
- Leave the Filter pop-up menu set to System Clipboard and the To pop-up menu set to Source, but from the With pop-up menu, choose Remove Styles.
- Back in the Actions list, search for and add the Paste action.
Then, whenever you press Command-Control-V, Keyboard Maestro looks at whatever is on the clipboard, filters out all the styles, and pastes it in whatever text field contains the insertion point.
More Than One Way to Skin a Character
I won’t pretend this list is anywhere near comprehensive—there are many ways to paste plain text. Glenn Fleishman is a fan of Pastebot from Tapbots. The Mac App Store also has the Paste Plain Text menu bar app, though it asks for your email address. And finally, those who use Microsoft Office should also be aware of the Paste Options button, which lets you decide after pasting if you want to keep the formatting of the source you’re pasting, match the formatting of the destination where you’re pasting, or just paste plain text.