Live Preview Paste – Get the Results You Want Quickly

My name is Mirko Mandic and I am a Program Manager on the Office User Experience team.  Today’s post is about the work we are doing in Office 2010 to improve the most frequently used Office command – Paste. 

Despite its usefulness, Paste doesn’t always work like users expect it to.  Their feedback and usage data (Paste is the most frequently undone action) indicate that pasted content often does not look like what they expected.  Changing the format of the freshly pasted content to look correct can be time-consuming.  Undoing and redoing a paste is tedious and interrupts the user’s workflow.  Instead of being a quick stop en route to a great looking document, pasting can seem like a complex task that comes with added “repair costs” (as one of our users described it).

 Comparison of possible results when pasting a Word table into a table.  Examples show a nested table vs. a table with merged rows.  Both can be quickly achieved with Offie 2010

Some of Office users have found creative ways to achieve better results when pasting content into an Office application.  For example, some users tell us they take their content “through” Notepad before pasting it in an Office application in order to strip away the formatting. 

Prior versions of Office offered some powerful, but underused pasting tools.  The Paste Special dialog enabled the users to achieve their desired result by picking the specific Paste format, such as pasting the formula or the formatting only.  Unfortunately, few users found these tools.  And those who found them faced several challenges – the names of the formats were often not descriptive enough to suggest results and pasting via the dialog required multiple clicks and a lot of mouse movement.

Paste special dialog in Excel

The Office Paste Recovery feature tried to help users fix incorrect pastes by offering alternative Paste options after the content had been pasted.  Word even offered a setting in the Options dialog to modify the default Paste format.  While some found these features useful, their wide adoption was hindered by discoverability and efficiency issues similar to those for the Paste Special dialog.

Paste recovery in Word 2007

In Office 2010, we’re combining the rich functionality of the Paste Special dialog and the Paste Recovery feature into a new Paste Options gallery.  The Paste Options gallery includes Live Preview – hovering over each Paste item allows users to preview the Paste formatting with their actual content.  The new Paste Options gallery helps users get the right results the first time, making the task of copying and pasting content into a document quicker and easier by eliminating the repetitive process of pasting, undoing and trying again.

The Paste Options gallery shows up in three places– in the Ribbon, on the right-click context menu and in the Paste Recovery on-object UI (OOUI) that appears near content you have pasted in your document:

 Paste options showing up in three UI locations: in the Ribbon, the context menu, and the OOUI

The contents of the Paste Options gallery are contextual.  They change based on what the user has copied and where the content is being pasted.  For example, copying some data from Excel will yield a different set of Paste choices than if the user had copied some text from Word: 

 Two possible sets of paste options.  One for Excel cells, one for text and theme choices.

Keep Text Only is a useful Paste format that works in many scenarios.  Whenever it is included in the Paste Options gallery, it shows up as the last item in the gallery to make it easy to spot and select.  Similarly, the first option in the gallery is almost always the default Paste option, the format that would have appeared when pasting with CTRL+V in previous versions.

When the user right clicks and hovers over an option in the Paste Options gallery, two things happen in addition to the Live Preview:

-          The rest of the UI “gets out of the way” by becoming transparent.  This effectively increases the size of the visible Live Preview area, helping the user preview the results and select the right Paste option.

-          A tooltip is displayed, showing the label and keyboard accelerator information.  The tooltip is intended to complement the Live Preview in helping the user chose the right option from the gallery, and as importantly, educate him/her during the transitional period of getting used to the new graphical presentation of the functionality.

 Live preview paste showing a transparent context menu during the preview

Many of our users paste using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+V.  We are making the Paste Options gallery useful for them as well.  The Paste Recovery OOUI is now much easier to access using the keyboard than in previous versions (most users did not know they could drop the Paste Recovery OOUI via Alt+Shift+F10).  In Office 2010, after using the Ctrl+V shortcut, just press the Ctrl key one more time to drop the new Paste Options gallery and change to a different Paste option.   Similarly to what happens on mouse hover, extra label and accelerator info is displayed in the tooltip as soon as keyboard focus is moved to an option in the gallery.

 Paste options gallery, which can be launched using 'Ctrl' after pasting

By exposing Paste options at a higher level in the UI, we are aiming to improve the task of pasting content into a document and we are making that task more efficient for keyboard and mouse users alike.  Paste tasks that previously required long keyboard sequences (from the Paste Special or the Paste Recovery OOUI) can now be completed by two keyboard presses – a press on the context menu key to launch the context menu, followed by a press on an accelerator key for the desired Paste option.  When it comes to mouse usage, several mouse clicks (and a lot of mouse movement) have been replaced by just two quick clicks – the right-click to bring up the context menu and a press on the desired option in the Paste Options gallery.

We hope that the Paste Options gallery in the Technical Preview of Office 2010 is already making it easier for you to create great looking content with less clicks and in less time than before, and we are looking forward to continue hearing your feedback on it!

Comments (10)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir,

    It is almost impossible to paste WordArt.  I made a copy of a wordArt title.  When I went to paste it using the same formatting.  It sometimes turned up and others times it did not.  Many times it turned up as in-line text.

  2. says:

    In my opinion, the procedure of copying and pasting has become much more entangled.

    Previously, in MS Office 2007, copying and pasting were much simpler and more intuitive.

  3. Troy Hepfner says:

    Having the right-click menu “vanish” when I’m mousing over the options would freak me out as a user. As an example, some users move the mouse as they are reading, and this will be a problem when they are slowly moving the mouse down the right-click menu looking for the command they want and the cursor happens to pass over the paste options. If the menu disappears, that will be unnerving and detract from the sense of mastery that the new UI is supposed to be providing. I know if that happened to me, and I had not read this blog entry explaining what is going on, I would panic. I would feel like something was happening that I didn’t understand, and would feel like I was not in control.

    In Word 2007, you can highlight text, right-click and mouse into galleries like the bullets or numbering galleries, and live preview does not happen. I think this is the right approach for context menus. It may be good to have the live preview via the paste gallery in the Ribbon, but not context menus.

  4. faramond says:

    I actually find it the new paste options much more confusing than the old ones–at least there was text to indicate what the options did, not tiny, often inscrutable icons. Excel has lots of paste special features that I use all the time. How is one supposed to communicate all of those via icon? And how can one select multiple options at the same time?

    I also feel it is bad practice for keyboard users to start replacing text with icons on a context menu. Not only are the accelerators concealed, but now menu navigation has right and left in addition to up and down. Right and left should be reserved for flyout child menus.

    Live preview paste is a great idea, but the UI for it needs to be improved.

  5. newscientist2000 says:

    Yeah Notepad is my friend, its just predictable and strips all the formatting.

  6. Alfredo Iglesias says:

    Right click menu does not stay. It fades away. Is there a solution?

  7. Debby5 says:

    I find the many paste gallery icons more confusing than the text.  and what exactly does the “merge conditional formating” option do on the paste special dialog box?

  8. Bobby says:

    I like the Word 2010 copy and paste options. But what is the merge formatting(M) and use destination style (S)? Where can I find explanation for these two paste options. It is rather confusing.

    Thank you.

  9. ismail eren says:

    vanishing happened to me. what is the solution of this problem does anyone know. if it is not working in 2010 it is tooooo and soooooo bad.

  10. Joe says:

    I have Microsoft office 2010 pro plus. I ma having one problem, and that is that in Powerpoint 2010 the live preview on the transitions dont work. What i mean is that when i hoover my mouse on the transition affects, i dont get the auto live preview like i am supposed to. But all the other live preview for the custom animation, and the formmating effects it works just fine. I had powerpoint 2010 beta before, and it worked than fine, and i also had powerpoint 2007 and it also worked on that.

    PLz help me

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