One of the shortcuts that we repeat over and over again is the good old copy and paste – so we thought we’d take the time to explain how it works and why it’s so useful when designing templates.
WHAT IS COPY AND PASTE?
Today, “copy and paste” has become a phrase in its own right and tends to be referred to as a single process (albeit one with two steps); however, it actually refers to two functions that are linked to a temporary storage location usually known as the “Clipboard”.
COPY: The copy function tells the program you are using to make a copy of whatever is currently selected. Therefore the copy part of “copy and paste” actually requires two steps in itself; first you have to select or highlight the area/content that you want to make a copy of and then tell the program to make a copy. The copy is then stored in the “Clipboard”; most systems will have one clipboard location, which means that if the copy function is used again the original content will be replaced by the new content. It also means that if you copy content in one program, it is possible to paste that content while in another program (providing the content is in a format that the new program can process).
PASTE: The paste function tells the program you are using to take the content that is stored in the clipboard and add it to the file or document you are currently working on. This may be over or next to the original content (if you are copying and pasting within a single file/document) or in a position that you specify.
WHY IS COPY AND PASTE SO GREAT?
Because it saves time – a lot of time.
Copy and paste means that you only have to set up a design (or particular elements of a design) once, instead of having to repeat the process for every label in your template. If you’re creating a simple text only template with few labels per sheet this may not seem like a great timesaver BUT, if you have a lot of design elements and/or many labels per sheet, copy and paste can become a bit of a life saver.
Copy and paste has a secondary benefit for label design; in addition to quickly creating copies of all of the individual objects in your design, it can also copy the format and style settings that have been applied to those objects. Copy and paste is commonly used to copy elements from one place to another without any consideration for how the copied content will look – usually because the copied content will be edited later on. However, when you are designing a template it is important that both the design elements remain the same (so that each label is printed with the same design) and that these elements remain in the exact same relative position and alignment when you paste (so that the design is always printed with the correct alignment).
HOW DO I COPY AND PASTE?
Different software will offer these functions in different ways (and sometimes under different names). Generally speaking though, “copy” and “paste” do tend to be fairly standardised and are most often located in or associated with “Edit” tabs or settings.
Step 1: Selecting or Highlighting
First, you need to select or highlight the area or objects you want to copy. If you are selecting an area, you usually need to move your cursor to the top left of this area, hold down the (left) button on your mouse and drag your cursor right and down until the area you require is selected.
[NB: in some graphics software packages, the mouse is used for a variety of purposes and functions, which means that you may need to select a specific mode or setting that will allow you to use the mouse as a tool for selecting an area].
If you are selecting specific objects, then you simply need to click on the items you are selecting; selecting multiple objects at once usually requires an additional setting or action; for example, in Word you can select your first object by (left) clicking on it once and then holding down the “Ctrl” key on your keyboard as you (left) click on the other objects you want to select.
You also have additional options if you are copying parts of a table; most software will allow you to select entire rows, columns, or the entire table itself, so that you can paste into all of the cells in that table at once. For example, in Word you can select a whole table by clicking in the top left cell and then holding down the button as you drag your cursor to the bottom right cell (which highlights the whole table as you go) OR you can hover over the table until a cross icon appears in the top left corner – your cursor will turn into the same cross shape when you hover over this icon and if you (left) click once the entire table will be selected.
To select a single cell to copy you can either (left) click in the top left corner of the cell and drag your cursor down and right to highlight the content (although this can be tricky with smaller cells or cells with a lot of content) OR you can move your cursor to the left side of the cell until the cursor turns into a solid black arrow pointing diagonally up and right – at which point you should (left) click once and this will select the entire cell.
Step 2. Copying
With most software, there are a few different ways to perform the copy function.
BUTTON/ICONS: most programs will have a “copy” icon or button available or “copy” will be listed in a list or box of available functions.
[For example, Word has a number of tabs along the top of the page; you can select the Home tab, which will then display the Home toolbar that allows you to perform a number of basic functions. The left hand section of this toolbar is the “clipboard” section and contains the “copy” icon – which looks like two pages with the front page sitting slightly down and right of the one behind it. Clicking on this icon will save the selected content to the clipboard.
RIGHT CLICK: if you right click on the area or content that you have selected or highlighted this will usually bring up a list of functions to choose from – including the option to copy the selected area or content.
KEYBOARD SHORTCUT: quite often you can use a standard keyboard shortcut to perform the copy (and paste) function. These can vary slightly depending on the system you are using but as a general rule you can use “Ctrl” + “C” (Windows) or “Command” + “C” (Mac) to copy the area or content that you selected or highlighted in step one.
Step 3. Pasting
The paste function can usually be performed in the same way(s) as the copy function, and the paste option will usually be displayed next to the copy function if you opt to use the button/icon or right click options. The most common keyboard shortcuts for pasting are “Ctrl” + “V” (Windows) or “Command” + “V” (Mac).
CAN I USE COPY AND PASTE TO COPY MY DESIGN INTO EVERY LABEL AT ONCE?
Unfortunately, not always.
If a program doesn’t allow you to paste into specific multiple locations at once then you may need to paste your design into each label, one at a time. This isn’t much of a problem if you only have a few labels per sheet, but can get a bit time consuming if you have a lot. Unfortunately, there isn’t really much you can do about this (unless you discover a super secret shortcut that we haven’t found yet).
In Word, you do have the shortcut of selecting entire rows or columns to paste into at once, but you do need to take care with this. If your Word template includes blank rows and columns to account for the gaps between labels on a sheet you SHOULD NOT select the whole template and attempt to paste your design in one go. Your design will also be pasted into the blank rows and columns, which usually causes the table to resize itself around the new content – which will completely ruin the alignment of your template.
WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY PASTE OPTIONS?
Most software will give you multiple paste options, mostly relating to format and style options.
For example, Word usually offers these three options:
1. Keep Source Formatting: any formatting or style options applied to the original content is kept and is applied to the new content.
2. Match Destination Formatting: this paste function discards most of the original formatting and style options in favour of matching the format and style of the destination (where the content is copied to); the exception would be anything related to emphasis, such as text where a portion of the text has been formatted with the bold and/or italic functions.
3. Keep Text Only: all formatting and style options applied to the original content are abandoned and only the text is retained (any non-text elements such as images or tables are also abandoned); the new content takes on the format and style settings used in the destination.
When pasting a copy of your design, you should ensure that you use a paste function that keeps the source formatting – this ensures that ALL of your labels will be printed with a design that has the same layout, formatting, and style options (creating a better alignment), and means that you don’t have to waste time selecting the correct format and style options for each label on the sheet.
WHAT’S THIS “CUT” OPTION?
The copy and paste functions are two of three functions that relate to the clipboard. The third – cut – is similar to the copy function BUT where the copy function adds a copy of your selected area/content to the clipboard without doing anything to the original, the cut function saves a copy to the clipboard AND deletes the original area/content.