More ways to convert rich text to plain text on the clipboard

If your OS X app doesn't have a paste without formatting option, readers came up with a number of suggestions.

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Recently, I explained how to use special paste options in several programs to remove rich-text formatting when you just want to paste the actual letters and symbols you’ve copied from one place to another, rather than preserve the font choice, type size, and other parameters. Readers had a load of suggestions for more ways to make this simple.

Create an AppleScript and assign a keystroke

Sage Humphries wrote in with this AppleScript that converts text after being copied to the clipboard into plain text. If you’re not using a program to trigger AppleScripts, here’s the easiest way to get started: install FastScripts from Red Sweater Software, which allows free use for up to 10 script keystrokes. It’s $10 to unlock unlimited keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Install FastScripts.
  2. Select FastScripts from the system menu bar, and select FastScripts > Open Scripts Folder > Open /Users/[account name]/Library/Scripts.
  3. Launch Script Editor (from Applications > Utilities).
  4. Paste in the exactly: set the clipboard to (get the clipboard as text)
  5. Save the script in the FastScripts user folder you opened in step 2.
  6. Now select FastScripts > Preferences from the FastScripts menu, and click Script Shortcuts.
  7. Double click the “(none)” to the right of your script name, and type a keystroke combination to assign. I’m using Command-Control-Option-V.
  8. Close FastScripts.
mac911 fastscripts keyboard shortcuts

FastScripts lets you assign keystrokes to trigger AppleScripts.

Now whenever you want convert the clipboard, just press that key combination, and you can paste plain text into any app. Oddly, AppleScript has no easy way to make paste part of the operation without a very wild set of menu and keypress manipulations.

(I tried to get Apple’s Automator to handle this AppleScript by creating it as a Service and then assigning a keystroke in the Keyboard system preference pane’s Shortcuts tab to make it available to all apps that handle text. But text services in OS X apparently only apply when you have a range of text selected.)

Trigger Plain Clip with a macro

The free (donation requested) Plain Clip has the sole function of stripping formatting from text, but it doesn’t do anything else. The developer created it for people to be triggered via launching and macro apps like QuickSilver (used by Sage), Keyboard Maestro, and the like.

mac911 textexpander plain text paste

The TextExpander shortcut is a thing of simplicity.

Use TextExpander.

If you’re already using TextExpander, it’s a trivial operation to convert the clipboard to text and paste in a single step, and one that reader Guy Scott uses all the time.

  1. Open TextExpander.
  2. Click New Snippet (+).
  3. In the Content area, make sure Plain Text is selected from the pop-up menu.
  4. Type in %clipboard in the field.
  5. Set a label, like “Paste plain text”, and an abbreviation; Guy uses “ppp”.

TextExpander can also launch AppleScripts, but this built-in approach is superior.

Use a clipboard utility

Readers use various clipboard utilities, some of which offer buttons, preferences, or menu items that strip formatting. Joe Kissell wrote an extensive round-up of such utilities a year ago. If you use LaunchBar, one of its preferences lets you enable a clipboard history with an option to paste via a keystroke; that paste can be set to convert to plain text.

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