How do I... Use the Office Clipboard instead of the Windows Clipboard?

Most of us get by most of the time just using the basic Microsoft Windows Clipboard. Copying multiple items at the same time will take a bit more work. However, the Office Clipboard makes quick work of copying multiple items. Susan Sales Harkins shows you how it works.

The Microsoft Windows Clipboard has magic quality to it -- like a magician's disappearing act. Into the magic box the pretty lady goes. After a few magic words, she reappears from behind a curtain. Now, it's a great trick, but the Clipboard has its limitations -- you can only make one pretty lady disappear at a time. If you send a second pretty lady into the box before you reclaim the first, the first one is gone forever. You could lose a lot of pretty ladies that way. To cut and paste multiple items, use the Office Clipboard, which can store up to 24 pretty ladies...I mean, items.

Most of us get by most of the time just using the basic Windows Clipboard. Copying multiple items at the same time takes a bit more work. You can spend a lot of time switching between documents that contain the source items and the target documents, but that routine can be tedious and frankly, it's prone to mistakes. However, the Office Clipboard makes quick work of copying multiple items.

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Office Clipboard basics

By default, every copy tasks goes to the Windows Clipboard, unless you explicitly call the Office Clipboard, using one of four methods:

  1. Select the item you want to copy and press [Ctrl][C][C] -- that's right, press C twice.
  2. Choose Office Clipboard from the Edit menu. In Office 2007, click the Clipboard group's dropdown control, shown in Figure A.
  3. If the Task Pane's already open, choose Clipboard form the dropdown list on the pane's title bar.
  4. Copy something to the Windows Clipboard, then paste, and then copy again, within the same Office program, and without doing anything else. This sequence activates the Office Clipboard. Depending on the Office Clipboard settings, this sequence of events might open the Office pane or display the Clipboard icon in the Task bar.

Activating the Office Clipboard doesn't usurp the Windows Clipboard; all of these methods copy the item to both clipboards.

Figure A

You'll find the Clipboard feature on the Home tab in Office 2007 applications.

The Clipboard icon is visible on the Task bar when the Office Clipboard is active and collecting copied items. To add subsequent items to the Office Clipboard, simply copy them as you normally would. The Office Clipboard, when active, collects all copied items, from the Windows Clipboard.

The second item in the Clipboard pane, shown in Figure B, is a URL, copied from a browser into the body of an E-mail message.

Figure B

The Office Clipboard stores everything you copy, not just items you copy in Office applications.
When you add items to the Office Clipboard, Office adds each subsequent item to the top of the list and flashes a quick message just above the Clipboard icon in the Task bar, as shown in Figure C. Office displays this quick peek for only a few seconds. At any time, you can hover your mouse over the Clipboard icon in the Task bar to see how many items are in the clipboard, and consequently, how many more items you can add to it before forcing something out.

Figure C

The Clipboard icon in the Task bar indicates that the Office Clipboard is active; when you copy items, Office displays a quick message about the task.
Once an item is in the Office Clipboard, you simply select it in the Clipboard pane, and then select Paste or Delete from an item's dropdown list, as shown in Figure D. To paste all the items currently in the Office Clipboard, click Paste All. Similarly, to delete everything, click Clear All.

Just remember that the top item in the pane is always the last item copied. In addition, you can't organize them -- you're stuck with the order. The only way to control order is to control how you copy the items.

Figure D

Use the Office pane to manage copied items.

Customizing for easier control

Like so many bells and whistles, the Office Clipboard isn't for everyone. Most of us get by just fine without it. If it gets in your way, change its settings until it's working for you, and not annoying you. With the Office pane open, click the Options button and choose the settings that best suit you. Table A offers a bit of explanation for each setting and a recommendation.

Table A: Office Clipboard settings




Show Office Clipboard Automatically Enabled, this setting automatically enables the Office Clipboard when you complete the copy-paste-copy sequence in any Office application. Disable it
Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl+C Pressed Twice This is the easiest way to activate the Office Clipboard. Enable it
Collect Without Showing Office Clipboard Once Office Clipboard is activated, this setting collects new items, but doesn't display the pane. Disable it -- why collect items if you don't want to see them?
Show Office Clipboard Icon on Taskbar Once Office Clipboard is activated, this setting displays the Clipboard icon in the Task bar. Enable it.
Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying This setting displays an update of the Office Clipboard's contents each time you copy something (see Figure C). Enable it.


The Office Clipboard continues to add items only as long as at least one Office application is open. Closing all Office products clears the Office Clipboard of all but the last item you copied. Turning off your computer will completely clear the contents. So, keep that in mind when using the Office Clipboard -- it really isn't a comprehensive solution for multiple copied items outside of Office, even though it stores copied items from non-Office applications.

In addition, the Office Clipboard is unavailable in views where the Copy, Cut, and Paste commands aren't available. Don't worry if items in the Clipboard pane don't look just right. The pane uses Tahoma font, regardless of the item's source formatting. However, Office copies the original formatting and font styles when you paste the item. Don't try to use the Office Clipboard to copy Access forms and reports -- it won't work.

Efficient copying

Windows Clipboard stores only one copied item at a time. For more flexibility, launch the Office Clipboard and start adding items -- up to 24. With the Clipboard pane open, you can insert items where you want, as often as you want, and in as many Office documents as you want.

Susan Sales Harkins is an independent consultant and the author of several articles and books on database technologies. Her most recent book is "Mastering Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express," with Mike Gunderloy, published by Sybex. Other collaborations with Mike Gunderloy are "Automating Microsoft Access 2003 with VBA," "Upgrader's Guide to Microsoft Office System 2003," "ICDL Exam Cram 2," and "Absolute Beginner's Guide to Microsoft Access 2003" all by Que. Currently, Susan volunteers as the Publications Director for Database Advisors at You can reach her at