How to get more out of your Clipboards in Microsoft Office

When pasting becomes tedious, check out the Clipboard history feature. It saves 25 items, so you can copy from document to document and app to app with less effort.

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Image: Wachiwit/Shutterstock

Everyone, even your grandma (I'm a great-grandma) knows how to the use the Clipboard to copy and paste content. It's such a fundamental part of using a PC that one hardly thinks about it—it's second nature. As helpful as it is, it's limited to saving one item at a time when using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V. In this article, I'll show you how to make the most of the Office and Windows Clipboard features, which store as many as 24 items, so you work a bit more efficiently.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

I'm using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit computer, but you can use earlier versions of Office. The online versions don't support the Clipboard history feature. I don't use Mac computers, but this is one of the few features that Mac doesn't support. There's no demonstration file because you won't need one. 

Previews of Windows 11 suggest that the history feature will be similar to the Windows 10 feature. It will, however, add support for new graphics, such as gifs, emojis, kaomojis and other symbols.

How to find the Office Clipboard history

Pasting one item at a time is adequate most of the time. However, if you're making multiple modifications or perhaps working with multiple open files, you might need a bit more flexibility. As mentioned, the Office Clipboard stores up to 24 items in its history: text, HTML and image files (that are smaller than 4MB). You can still copy larger items, but the Clipboard won't save them in its history. 

To see the Office history, simply click the Clipboard group's dialog launcher. Click any item to insert it into the active document where the cursor is. For a bit more control, click Options (at the bottom of the pane). In the resulting submenu, choose one of the first two options shown in Figure A.

Figure A

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  There are several ways to control the Clipboard history.

You don't have to choose any option at all to access the history—simply click the Clipboard group's dialog launcher. However, you do have other options. Table A explains them all. It's worth becoming familiar with each option so you can choose the right one—in fact, if you need the history, you might find that you move from one option to another to work more efficiently.

Table A

Option

Description

Show Office Clipboard Automatically

Displays the Office Clipboard history when you copy more than one item.

Show Office Clipboard When CTRL + C Pressed Twice

Displays the Office Clipboard history when you press Ctrl + C + C.

Collect Without Showing Office

Copies items to the Office Clipboard but doesn't display the Clipboard history.

Show Office Clipboard Icon On Taskbar

Displays the Clipboard icon in the notification section of your Windows taskbar.

Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying

Shows the number of items in the Clipboard history in the bottom-right corner of the Word window.

The first option seems the most efficient, but whether you choose the first or second will depend on you. However, if you enable the Clipboard by checking the first option, the Ctrl + C + C option is dimmed.

To paste items from the history, position your cursor where you want that item and click it. You could also use the dropdown list, which also has a delete option. Pasting will work between apps as well as within the same document. When you're ready to close the Clipboard, simply click the X (Close icon) in the pane's top-right corner. 

How to find the Windows history

Windows has a similar feature, but you must enable it in one of two ways. First, you can enable the feature through the Windows 10 settings:

  1. Click the Start button and click Settings.
  2. Choose System from the resulting submenu.
  3. In the navigation pane, click Clipboard.
  4. In the Clipboard History section, toggle On by swiping to the right (Figure B). You can swipe to the left to turn the feature Off.

Figure B

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  Use the Windows setting to enable the Clipboard history.

Or you can press Windows + V. If the feature isn't enabled, Windows will display the dialog shown in Figure C. Simply click the Turn On button.

Figure C

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  Click Turn On to enable the Clipboard history.

After enabling the history, you can access it at any time by pressing Windows + V. Doing so will display the Windows Clipboard shown in Figure D. Its history won't be the same as the Office history, but the Office history lets you pin items, so you don't lose them when you turn off your system.

Figure D

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  Use the Windows history to save items for the next work session.

How to use it across devices

The Windows Clipboard history is available between devices because the feature is now cloud-based. To utilize this extra functionality, return to the Settings (Start button), click System, and then choose Clipboard. Figure E shows the Automatically Sync Text That I Copy option in the Sync Across Devices section. Click Get Started, confirm your email address and continue to respond to the prompts. This feature is connected to your Microsoft account, so you'll want to use the same login credentials for all the devices you want to have access to the same history.  

Figure E

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  Share the history across devices. 

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