Why You Should Not Copy and Paste from Word into Your Content Management System

25th August, 2010 in CMS 2 Comments

It is very common for website owners to create or be given content in a Microsoft Word document and they copy and paste that directly from Word into the content management system. This is not the correct way to copy your content onto your website and could lead to potential problems, even the website page not working. This blog explains why and what you should do instead.

Why You Should Not Copy and Paste from Word

In order to format the text in Word, i.e. make it bold, underline etc. some special code is required for the software to format the text like this. The user cannot see this code, it is “behind the scenes”. The code used is not standard HTML but Microsoft Word coding that will not be interpreted by many popular browsers (including Microsoft Internet Explorer!). When you copy and paste content from Word into a website content manager that code can be copied over with the content (behind the scenes) and inserted onto the web page too. It may look OK on some browsers, or even in the content manager, but behind the scenes there is some non-standard code that will break the website and it may not display correctly. Therefore content must never be directly copied and pasted from Word to the content manager at all.

What You Should Do

I always say in order to get the best code and layout for your content managed page you should format the content within the content manager itself. So do not rely on copying the content and format from Word, just paste into the editor plain text and then format it.

A little tip to do this is open up your favourite Text editor (Notepad, Notepad++, Textpad etc.) then copy the content from Word into the text editor. Text editors do not have formatting like Word, they can only show plain text, so when you copy and paste all the formatting code behind the scenes is stripped out and you are left with plain text only. You may need to re-enter line breaks, but line breaks usually copy across OK.

Once you have the text in the editor as plain text, then you can copy and paste this text into the content manager. The copied text is plain text so no non-standard code will be copied across. All your formatting in Word will be stripped out, so you then need to use the content manager to re-format the content such as any headings, bold text, hyperlinks etc. and re-insert any images.

An Easier Way

Many website content manager systems (like Joomla and WordPress for example) use page editors that include a “Paste from Word” and a “Paste as Plain Text” button. Using these buttons will make it easier to copy your text across.

Using the “Paste as Plain Text” button will allow you to paste your content from Word into the editor as plain text, i.e. you will get the same result as above but skip the need to use a text editor.

The “Paste from Word” button tries to help one step further. This button allows you to paste your Word content but tries to keep the Word formatting by changing the Microsoft code to HTML. This is the preferred method if it works.

Summary

So in summary, first try the Paste from Word button if you have it, and if that fails try the Paste as Plain Text button. If you have neither of these buttons use a text editor to copy and paste Word content into first.

Comments
Picture of Pravin

Pravin 15th August, 2013 at 16:54 pm

I have copied all my texts to site after editing on MS Word 2013. Is there any way to find out if it has affected my content on site? Will you please check on my website and let me know? FYKI, I am using site builder from net4.in.

Thank you

Picture of Laurence Cope

Laurence Cope 15th August, 2013 at 19:17 pm

I have only had a quick look but I cannot see any MS Word code that is usually inserted when you copy and paste. The site is suffering from a serious case of DIVitis, amazingly long, meaningless and unnecessary class names, and has a lot of inline styles. It's not the best coded site in the world, but as you say you used a site builder and that's what happens!

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