Learn Microsoft Excel: Smart Paste

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 13, 2008
Updated • Jan 4, 2013

If you want to copy contents from a plain text file, for instance one you have created with Notepad or Notepad++, you may have noticed that contents do not get pasted correctly into the spreadsheet even if you have taken great care of making sure the data is aligned properly in the text document. Ashish Mohta published a little tutorial on his website that explains how you can format text files so that data in them is pasted correctly into Microsoft Excel. The process works with every plain text document regardless of the program it has been created in.

When you normally copy and paste contents into Microsoft Excel they will all be stored in the same cell in the Excel application. That is usually not the desired way of how you want the date to be displayed in Excel. A far better option would be to paste the contents into different cells, especially if the text document used a tablet like structure for the contents as well.

The process is actually very simple. You need to use the TAB key to divide data in the text document. When you paste the contents into Excel, you will notice that Excel will automatically add them to different cells automatically.

Each tap of the TAB button represents a new cell in the Excel spreadsheet and that is all you need to know to paste contents properly into the spreadsheet application. Note that you can press tab at any time to sort data into Excel cells. This is even possible at the beginning of the a line in the text file.

It is also interesting to note that this works in other spreadsheet applications as well. I have tested it in Open Office and it worked exactly as in Microsoft Excel.


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  1. Parthi1010 said on October 13, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Alternate Method to smart Paste is to import the text data in excel.

    1. Save the text file either comma or tab separated data
    2. In MS Excel menu >>DATA>>Import External Data>>Import Data
    3. Chose the file, Click Delimited >> Next
    4. Click TAB & Comma in Delimiters >> Next >> Finish

    Thats it …..

  2. Dotan Cohen said on October 13, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Of course, this works with Open Office as well.

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