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How to Deal With Excel 2016’s New Persistent Clipboard

Jun 23rd 2017
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If you’ve used Microsoft Excel for any length of time you’ve probably realized that it has had a completely different relationship with the Windows Clipboard than any other application you may have used.

I purposely chose the words “has had” because, at long last, Microsoft Excel 2016 will no longer clear the clipboard when you happen to take any action unrelated to pasting the data. I’ll first set some background for how this feature historically worked and then show you what to expect going forward if you’re using an Office 365 subscription-based version of Microsoft Excel.

Let’s say that you select and copy a range of cells, and then notice that you wanted to bold the top row. When you select those cells and click the Bold icon, suddenly what you had copied to the clipboard is no longer there – you have to select and copy the data again.

Conversely, let’s try this in Excel 2016:

1. Select any range of cells.

2. Click the Copy command or press Ctrl-C.

3. Select a different range of cells.

4. Press Ctrl-B to make those cells bold.

5. Notice that your selection of copied cells is still valid and ready for you to paste without selecting the range again.

Clipboard 1

Figure 1: Excel 2016 maintains what’s been copied to the clipboard regardless of nonpaste-related actions.

This is but one of many refinements that has been added since the initial release of Excel 2016. I’ve written previously how such slipstreamed features can cause compatibility issues, such as the Funnel chart and worksheet functions like TEXTJOIN, CONCAT, IFS, MAXIFS, and so on.

Unlike some software companies that have forced all users into subscription-based platforms, Microsoft is taking a different approach. You can still purchase perpetual licenses of Office 2016 that you can use as far into the future as technology allows. However, such users are second-class citizens in this new subscription-based world.

Historically, all Excel users had exactly the same experience within a given-year version of Excel. New features mostly appeared with major releases of the software. However, occasionally a software update would add a new feature, such as when Service Pack 1 for Excel 2007 added the ability to print to PDF. Mostly though, Excel evolved every three years or so, until you fast forward to Excel 2016.

Office 365 subscribers see new features as often as monthly. Some speed the process up even more by opting into the free Microsoft Office Insider program. Office updates occur periodically, so be sure to check to see if any are available as illustrated in Figure 2.

Clipboard 2

Figure 2: The Account section of the File menu allows you to view and update Microsoft Office.

To ascertain how your version of Excel 2016 is licensed:

1. Choose File.

2. Choose Account.

3. If the words Subscription Product appear along with Microsoft Office 365, then you very likely have new features and capabilities that many other Excel users don’t, as shown in Figure 3.

Clipboard 3

Figure 3: Microsoft Office 365 users have many capabilities that other Excel users don’t.

Replies (2)

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By mfstock
Mar 7th 2018 21:55

I don't understand how this helps to "deal with the clipboard"? The title doesn't fit the content.

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By NZLWally
Jun 23rd 2018 05:18

As a long time user of Excel this is the most frustrating 'feature' ever. I frequently end up pasting a copied range across multiple rows/columns even when I thought I cleared the copy. Microsoft should allow this feature to be enabled/disabled.

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