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The Office Clipboard – a hidden treasure

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A common feature used within all of the Microsoft Office applications is the cut, copy and paste feature. I personally use this A LOT. The ability to cut, copy and paste within any of the applications and also between different applications provides a user with a high level of productivity.

An unknown bonus of this function is related to the use of the Office Clipboard. Often users will use the cut, copy and paste functions repeatedly. Most users know that the clipboard is the location where anything you cut or copy is stored until such time as you paste it elsewhere. What many people are unaware of is that the Office clipboard can store up to 24 different items you have either cut or copied and you can then paste these randomly into your files in any given order.


Yep, that’s right! You are not limited to only pasting the last item that you copied or cut from your file. You can paste any combination of the last 24 items.

Now the way you achieve this is by collecting items in the Office Clipboard. The clipboard generally stays hidden and does not display itself when we use the cut, copy and paste features. I’m sure, like me, that many users simply use the keyboard shortcut combinations to use these functions. Let me now show you how to utilise the full potential of the Office Clipboard.

  1. Firstly lets open one of the Office applications, for ease of this post I’m going to use Microsoft Word
  2. You will be displayed with a blank document
  3. If you prefer, you can now open any document which you are happy to use for this exercise, just ensure you won’t mind mixing up the order of your content, or simply make a copy of the file
  4. I am using a sample file I’ve created from some training notes which contains some headings, body text, an object, and an image.

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. We will now explore some of the features of the Office Clipboard
  2. To display the Clipboard, click the Dialog Box Launcher button found in the bottom right corner of the Clipboard group on the Home tab

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. The Clipboard task pane will now be displayed on the left side of the screen

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. To explore a few of the options available when working with the Office Clipboard, click the Options button at the bottom of the task pane
  2. You will see the following options:

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. Each of the options will provide the following functionality:
Show Office Clipboard AutomaticallyThe clipboard will automatically appear whenever you copy or cut content from your document. I initially enabled this setting, however, turned it back off as it means the Clipboard is displayed every time you use the cut, copy, paste feature.
Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl + C Pressed TwiceThe clipboard will appear if you press Ctrl + C twice in succession. I personally have this setting enabled.
Collect Without Showing Office ClipboardCopies content from your document to the clipboard collection automatically. Sounds like a good idea but again I enabled this and turned it back off as it meant a lot of “You have a large amount of content in your Clipboard…” messages whenever I closed an application.
Show Office Clipboard Icon on TaskbarWill display the Clipboard icon on the taskbar which gives you easy access to view or clear the clipboard along with advising how many items have been added to the collection.
Show Status Near Taskbar When CopyingThis option will allow you to see a small popup window appear in the bottom right corner of your screen which shows you the status of the Office Clipboard.
  1. Now to copy and cut some elements from the document
  2. Select a heading and press Ctrl + C on the keyboard (this will copy the content)
  3. The heading should now appear in the Office Clipboard collection

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. Now select an entire paragraph within the document and press Ctrl + C to copy
  2. You will now have 2 items displayed in the clipboard collection

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. Repeat this process till you have 4 or 5 different items displayed in the clipboard collection

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. Now move either to a new blank document, if you prefer, or to the bottom of the current document you are working in
  2. To paste the elements back into our document you can now use the Office Clipboard to perform this function
  3. To paste, simply click once on the element from the clipboard collection that you want to paste, this can be done in any order you prefer
  4. Firstly I am going to paste the shapes diagram

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. Continue to paste items in a random order
  2. You will notice when you position your mouse over each element that a drop-down button appears, click the button to view the menu

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. The drop-down menu provides options to either Paste or Delete
  2. If you wish to remove an item from the Clipboard collection you can individually delete the element using the drop down menu or you can use the Clear All button located at the top of the Clipboard task pane

Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. If you wish to paste all elements at once into your document you can use the Paste All button located at the top of the Clipboard task pane

Keeping content in the Clipboard

A regular question I see relating to the clipboard is the issue of people losing the content they had copied to the clipboard. I have seen many users who have cut large amounts of data from one document or file and plan to paste the content into another file only to find that when they try to perform the Paste function, nothing is available.

When you copy or cut content onto the Office Clipboard, that content is being stored temporarily. The clipboard will prompt you on what you want to do with that stored content if you do not clear the content yourself. If you are only copying or cutting small amounts of data, then that data will remain in the Office Clipboard for you to use elsewhere. If however you have cut or copied a large amount of data, which is taking up significant storage space, then the Clipboard will ask you what you want to do with it.

Over the years I’ve seen many computer users become very neutral to seeing any type of message appear on the screen and our instant reaction is to click No. Generally, I think people assume that answering No to a question on the computer, even if they haven’t read the message, will never result in a negative result. When working with stored content in the Office Clipboard that is not the case. To demonstrate this, follow these steps:

  1. If you cleared the clipboard in previous steps, perform a simple copy on approx. 4 headings or paragraphs
  2. Do not manually save your file, instead press Ctrl + W on the keyboard (shortcut to Close a file)
  3. You will be prompted to save the file, select your preference depending on the type of file you are using for this exercise
  4. Ensure you have closed all instances of Microsoft Word which are running
  5. You will not see any prompts relating to the Clipboard data being stored
  6. Now open the file again which you were previously using
  7. You will see the Clipboard has the same 4 items in the collection
  8. Now select the entire document content using the Ctrl + A shortcut
  9. Select Ctrl + C to copy to the Clipboard collection
  10. Now repeat the process and close the document and exit Microsoft Word (remember to save if you prefer)
  11. You will now see an additional prompt appear:


Microsoft Clipboard - a hidden treasure

  1. This prompt is essentially advising that there is content in the Clipboard, do you want this available to use in other applications after you quit Word? If you plan to paste the content that you have stored in the clipboard, into another file or program, you MUST click Yes. If you click No, anything being stored in the Office Clipboard will be deleted. Clicking Cancel will simply keep Microsoft Word open allowing you to continue to interact with the Clipboard.

I hope this post on the Office Clipboard helps save you some time in your day. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions which I have not answered here or if you are having an issue with a different feature of any of the Microsoft Office applications.

If you would like to use Microsoft Word more efficiently, why not check out My Favourite Shortcut Keys for Microsoft Word.


One Response

  1. Hi Belinda,
    I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow… I’ve got so many new tricks to try.
    I’m 48, so did all my word processing learning when DOS was still a thing. I have been a retail manager for many years, and have recently been moved into our HR team. I’ve had enough skills to be useful, but knew there must be lots more features in Word that I could be exploiting.
    Thank you so much for your clear explanations that don’t make me feel like an idiot.

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