The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly Sides Of Using Copy & Paste…

Copy and paste is a tried and tested part of life; whether you’re moving information between documents, copying information from a useful resource, or you simply want to avoid typing the same information over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Of course, while copy and paste is one of the most useful tricks of the digital age, it (like everything else) has a darker side – we’ve all experienced the problems of finding out that you’ve copied the wrong bit of information and you can’t find the original source, you’ve copied a perfectly laid out page and the minute you hit paste it rearranges itself into an entangled mess that only vaguely resembles the original, or you’ve copied something only to find out that it comes with all sorts of extra bits that you don’t want and now have to delete one by one.

When designing templates, copy and paste is one of the most useful tools you can use – it can save heaps of time and effort in an instant. However, it can also cause hours and hours of nightmarish problems.

So: here is the Label Planet guide to the good, the bad, & the ugly sides of copy and paste….

THE GOOD
From the tone of the first part of this blog, you might well be wondering “well, if copy and paste is so bad, why should I use it at all?” – but it’s definitely a tool that we wouldn’t be without.

Unless you’re creating a set of labels that are entirely different from one another, most templates are designed to create one set of labels that are (pretty much) all the same. Some may want to have slightly different details on each label (e.g. product numbers or addresses), but the bulk of the design will be the same.

This is where copy and paste excels. Instead of setting up each label individually, you simply need to design one of your labels (we suggest the top left one) and get it set up exactly as you want it, before using copy and paste to fill in the rest of your template. The best part is, it is possible to select all of the elements you have set up in your design AND the formatting you have applied to them, so that when you paste you know ALL of the labels in your template have been set up in exactly the same way. This improves the alignment you achieve when you print and makes it much easier to spot any problems that you might need to amend to get the perfect print position.

THE BAD
Unfortunately, while copy and paste has a lot of uses (and therefore benefits), sometimes it simply can’t do everything for you. The copy function will only copy exactly what you select and the paste function will follow a set of rules that might not produce a result that is exactly what you were hoping for – so if you don’t take a little extra care when using copy and paste you can run into problems.

Sometimes, copy and paste might not turn out to be quite the shortcut that you imagined, although (when used properly) it can still provide a great deal of time saving help. One example is labels with gaps between them; some templates will incorporate these gaps into the spaces that represent the labels on the sheet – in which case you can usually copy and paste your design into all of the label spaces in one go BUT you will have to take care with your design to ensure that you have accounted for the gaps between the labels. Other templates may include blank spaces, columns, and/or rows to account for the gaps between labels – in these cases, you will often have to avoid pasting into the blank spaces because this may alter the layout of the template (when software automatically adjusts a template as content is added to spaces where it shouldn’t really be) or cause issues when printing. This means that you may need to paste into individual spaces, rows, or columns one at a time.

THE UGLY
In our experience, the worst problems caused by using copy and paste tend to happen when the software you are using tries to be helpful by trying to predict what you might be trying to do and then doing it for you.

A common issue is caused by the software detecting that you are adding new content and then adjusting the layout of your template to accommodate the items you paste. Obviously, this will usually mean that your template ends up misaligned and will cause all sorts of problems when you print. Some software will allow you to “lock” the layout of your template, but it is usually best not to assume that this is the case. If the content you are adding is larger than the size of your labels, you may wish to edit it before you paste it into your template (so that it is the right size to start with) or simply take care to double check that your template doesn’t adjust when you paste (and adjust the layout back if it does).

Something else to watch out for (particularly in Word), is when software automatically adds in blank columns or rows to replace those that you have just filled with content. This usually occurs when you paste into multiple rows/columns in one go, and you will need to delete the new rows/columns that have been generated to avoid problems when you print.

Similarly, some software has more than one type of “paste” and, if you use the wrong one, the software may make adjustments to your content that you really don’t want it to. These paste options will give you different options for how much of the original content is retained and the formatting and style options that are applied to the content when you paste.

For example, Word offers three options: Keep Source Formatting, which pastes your original content exactly as it is; Match Destination Formatting, which alters most of the formatting and style options of your original content to match the destination it is being pasted to (with the exception of any emphasis in the original text, such as bold/italicised/underlined text); and Keep Text Only, which abandons non-text elements (e.g. images and tables) and retains only the text, which is then pasted with format and style settings that match those of the destination.

LABEL PLANET’S TOP THREE TIPS FOR COPY AND PASTE

  • Take care when selecting what you want to copy
    Select the ENTIRE area that you want to copy and not just the individual elements within it. In Word, for example, if you hover very carefully over the left hand edge of a cell, the cursor will turn into a small, solid black arrow pointing diagonally up and right; if you left click once, this will select the ENTIRE cell for you, including the elements you have added to that cell to create your design AND all of the formatting options you have selected. You can tell when an entire cell has been selected because both the elements within the cell AND the background behind and around the elements will be highlighted in a pale grey.
  • Choose the best paste option for what you are trying to achieve
    Think about what you want to do with the content you are trying to copy (e.g. do you need an exact copy or do you just need the basic elements that you can go on to edit?) and make sure you choose the best paste option for your needs.
  • Check if you are able to paste into multiple columns/rows at once BEFORE you copy and paste
    This depends on the options provided by your software AND the way in which the template has been set up. Usually, you should be able to select multiple places that you want to paste to but some software may not give you this option (in which case you will need to paste your design into the labels in your template one by one). You should also be aware of how a template has been set up to accommodate for any gaps between labels. If your template includes blank rows/columns to represent gaps between your labels, you should avoid pasting into these spaces because this will usually cause your template to adjust itself or will cause issues when you try to print.

You can find templates for all of our labels on our website here.

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