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Paste Plain Text

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Regular readers of Mac Gems know that I spend a lot of time working with text—and that I’m always looking for ways to clean up that text. For the ultimate in text cleaning, my tool of choice is Unmarked Software’s textSOAP, which I covered back in December of 2004, but sometimes I just need to strip the formatting from text—remove its fancy fonts and styles. Based on the feedback I’ve received from readers, I’m not alone. It seems it’s fairly common for people to copy text from a Web page, e-mail message, or document, and then have to reformat it once it’s pasted into the target document.

In July 2004, I showed you Plain Clip, an application that, when launched, strips the formatting of text on the Clipboard. It’s a handy utility that I’ve used regularly over the past year and a half. However, I recently discovered Pozytron’s free PlaintextPaste 0.2 (   ). Instead of requiring you to launch a separate application to strip formatting from text, PlaintextPaste actually modifies the Edit menu of Cocoa applications to include a number of new and useful items:

  • Paste Plain Text: Pastes the contents of the Clipboard as plain text, stripping all formatting.
  • Copy Plain Text: Copies highlighted text, unformatted, to the Clipboard, never bothering to grab text styles in the first place.
  • Paste as 7-Bit ASCII: Pastes the contents of the Clipboard as 7-bit ASCII, stripping all “high ASCII” characters (and, if possible, replacing them wth their closest 7-bit ASCII equivalents).
  • Swap Selection with Clipboard: Swaps highlighted text with the contents of the Clipboard—in other words, this feature replaces highlighted text with the Clipboard’s contents and then places the text that was replaced onto the Clipboard. (If no text is selected, it pastes the Clipboard contents and then clears the Clipboard afterwards.)
  • Special Characters: Choosing this item displays OS X’s Character Palette—useful if another third-party add-on has disabled it unintentionally. (If you end up seeing two Special Characters items, you can turn one off via PlaintextPaste’s preferences.)

PlaintextPaste additions to the Edit menu

Because these are actual menu items, you can use Mac OS X’s keyboard shortcut feature (in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences) to assign your own keyboard shortcuts. For example, you could assign Control-Shift-V to the new Paste Plain Text item.

Via PlaintextPaste’s preferences (in the SparkPlug pane of System Preferences—PlaintextPaste is a plug-in for the Spark InputManager), you can choose which of the above menu items appear, as well as whether they appear in the main Edit menu or in a submenu. In case of a conflict, you can also prevent the menu items from appearing at all in particular applications.

PlaintextPaste preferences
PlaintextPaste items in submenu

The biggest disadvantage of PlaintextPaste is that because of the way it modifies the Edit menu, its menu items appear only in Cocoa applications, such as Mail, TextEdit, OmniOutliner, Mellel, and Nisus Writer Express; Microsoft Word, BBEdit, and other non-Cocoa word processors and text editors are out of luck. In this respect, Plain Clip is more versatile—since it’s a separate application, it works with all applications. But if you spend most of your text time in Cocoa applications, PlaintextPaste is more convenient and provides more options.

PlaintextPaste is compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) and later.

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