Five Solutions for Pasting Plain Text on a Mac

Originally published at: Five Solutions for Pasting Plain Text on a Mac - TidBITS

Most of the time, when you copy and paste text, the original formatting is carried over. We explore a handful of methods for stripping unwanted formatting so you get just the text.

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Several years ago, I used a free App called Plain Clip to strip all formatting from copied text. It worked well for my needs then, but it hasn’t been updated since then.

I didn’t test it on my new M1 Mac with Monterey installed, so I am not sure if it still works.

I copied this AppleScript off the Internet years ago. The Finder says that the file creation date was March 2011. It converts the clipboard to plain text. I activate it using the Script menu. The pasting step is manual (Command-v).

set the clipboard to «class ktxt» of ((the clipboard as text) as record)
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I have used iClip for years; it remains really useful. www.iclipapp.com

$15; fully operational trial, much more utility than just plain text but that works really well.

Don’t know how long a snippet it will accept, but I’ve found that hitting command-space and pasting the text into the Spotlight search field, then selecting it and cutting it from there before pasting into its final destination works most of the time for me.

Though, I do like @foo (Chik’s) AppleScript.

Edit: @Shamino’s comment reminded me about good old TextEdit, which can convert any Rich Text to plain text.

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Pasting/cutting via a non-formatted text field can work with any app that has such a field.

I frequently use my installation of GNU Emacs for this, since its edit buffer will let me paste/copy any amount of text, no matter how large it may be.

In Keyboard Maestro, clicking the menubar icon, choosing Paste then pressing shift-option causes the clipboard to convert to plain text.

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Alfred!

Probably needs the Powerpack, but if you have it create a two-step workflow. First, map a hotkey (I use ⇧⌘V). Set the action to “Pass through to workflow”. Set the argument to “macOS Clipboard Contents”.

Connect that to a “Copy to Clipboard” action. Set the Type to “Plain Text - Match destination formatting on paste”. Check the “Automatically paste to front most app” and “Mark item as transient in clipboard” boxes.

I’ve been using this for years and years - I didn’t write it but I can’t remember where it came from.

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In Mail or Outlook paste formatted text into an unused address field (CC or BCC) then copy from there, cut and paste into the body of your email.

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I have recently started using TextEdit for everything. I changed it to default to plain text. Initially I set the font to Adobe’s Source Code Pro because I have found it to be lighter and much more readable than other monospaced fonts.
But recently I switched to Menlo which is much more widely available and significantly more Unicode-complete than other monospaced fonts.
I only used styled text (RTF) when I really need it, which is less often than I thought it was.

I use to use an app called TextSoap on my Mac. It worked via the Services menu and could do multiple text cleanups. For example, not just removing formatting, but also add a blank line after paragraphs, removing smart quotes and non-ascii text, remove extra spaces and returns, etc.

I’m not sure why, but I just sort of stopped using it. I think I needed to pay for an update, but most Mac programs had adopted the *paste plain text *option and you it just didn’t seem as important.

I still see it’s around. I might buy it if they also offered a iOS version. Currently, I use MacVim on the Mac and IA Writer on the iPhone. MacVim is okay, but switching to use IA Writer is a pain.

I’m going with Pure Paste from here on. It does exactly what I need. Thanks for the tip.

I just use Edit > Paste and Match Style. I remapped it to a more humane key at System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts > All Applications > Paste and Match Style.

(1) I second iClip as a clipboard manager that can directly paste any saved clip as formatted or plain text. It can also convert clips to plain text.
(2) PopClip can has a Paste= option for pasting as plain text. It’s a very handy App Store item by Pilotmoon.com.

If you’re a LaunchBar user, you can use its Clipboard History feature to paste plain text. Just turn on the “As Plain Text” option and everything you paste from LaunchBar’s clipboard history is pasted without formatting.

I’d suggest excluding your password manager from LaunchBar’s clipboard history if you don’t want your passwords to show up there.

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I’ve used Shift-Command-Option-V on the Mac for as long as I can remember. For me this is a bigger problem on the iPad. (I guess on the iPhone too but I don’t tend to do much copying and pasting between apps on the phone.) I think the only solution I’ve found is the “paste and copy in a plain text app” approach, but that’s a lot of steps.

I’d love to see the ability to long-press “Paste” in the iPadOS pop up text menu to get an auxiliary pop up menu with the option to paste and match style. I envision it acting like long pressing a key on the on-screen keyboard.

Is there a better solution I’m not aware of?

Nice discussion - thanks for all the good ideas

I use TextEdit a lot. When there’s no (or few) hyperlinks Paste and Match Style is my main tool for the job. If there are a lot of hyperlinks I want preserved, I often plain paste, select the text, select Default from the document’s Style menu bar item (with the paragraph symbol), then, if paragraphs are not preserved, select the text and apply DEVONtechnologies free Word Service’s “Word Service:Reformat” command from the Services Menu.

Word Service is available here under Freeware: DEVONtechnologies | Download

Pure Paste sounds like the cat’s meow for preserving hyperlinks, but alas, I remain using Big Sur

A few caveats about Word Service: Reformat

If the selection contains images, it removes them (yuck)

It usually fails to preserve bulleted lists

In some cases, it just doesn’t help at all

… the only example coming to mind is with text copied and plain pasted from YouTube video descriptions using Firefox (notoriously abysmal how it implements copy and paste). Gratefully, recent versions of Safari do a bang up job with YT’s text when plain pasted, then Styled as Default in TextEdit

As an aside, Word Service also has many other nice tools, among which is “Initial Caps of Sentences” which I find nowhere else (I’ve lobbied Apple a couple of times to add that to the Transformations contextual menu). I also find their “Statistics” tool especially helpful for counting characters when composing text for online form and ‘Chat’ fields with limited character allowances (e.g., Apple’s App Feedback comment field)

This is also possible with Typinator. I use the abbreviation “vv” for that - so I don’t even need a modifier key. :+1:

You can find a short description about this feature as well as many further Typinator power tips here:
https://www.ergonis.com/products/typinator/using/powertips/convert-clipboard-to-plain-text.html

And …
… Typinator does NOT require a subscription to do that :wink:

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@chrei I love your products. I’ve used Typinator for years and never realized it could do such tricks. Shows the bad habits one can get into when they fail to fully explore a powerful program. Thank you for the link - now I will actually sit down and do my homework to tap the full ability of a very excellent program!!

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Has anyone tried the free “Paste Plain Text” from the App Store? From a company called FipLab?

I’m a little leery of apps I don’t know that have access to the clipboard - but I guess every app has access to the clipboard so maybe that’s being overly paranoid. (I mean, good to be careful about any app you put on your computer, but the fact that it manipulates the clipboard maybe isn’t really a special security issue.)

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