Excel Paste Special: copy values, comments, column's width and more

The tutorial explains how to use Paste Special in Excel and how to make the process more efficient by using paste special shortcuts to paste values, formulas, comments, formats, column width, and more.

Copy pasting in Excel is easy. I believe everyone knows the shortcut to copy a cell (Ctrl+C) and to paste it (Ctrl+V). But did you know that apart from pasting a whole cell, you can paste only a certain attribute such as value, formula, formatting or comment? That's where Paste Special comes in.

Excel Paste Special makes the pasting operation smoother by letting you choose which formatting (source or destination) to keep or by stripping all formatting and just pasting the values or formulas.

What is Paste Special in Excel?

In situations where a standard copy / paste in not appropriate, Excel's Paste Special offers a wide range of options to paste only specific elements of the copied cells or perform a mathematical operation with the copied data.

For example, you can copy formula-driven data and paste only the calculated values in the same or different cells. Or, you can copy the width of one column and apply it to all other columns in your data set. Or, you can transpose the copied range, i.e. convert rows to columns and vice versa. The following screenshot demonstrates all available Paste Special options:
Excel Paste Special options

All of the Paste Special commands work within the same worksheet as well as across different sheets and workbooks.

How to paste special in Excel

The use of Paste Special in Excel boils down to the following:

  1. Copy the source cell or a range of cells (the fastest way is to select the cell(s) and press the Ctrl + C shortcut).
  2. Select the destination cell(s).
  3. Open the Paste Special dialog using one of the methods described below (the fastest way is to hit the Paste Special shortcut).
  4. Select the desired paste option, and click OK or press the Enter key.

Yep, it's that simple!

3 ways to access Paste Special in Excel

Usually, Microsoft Excel provides a numbers of ways to utilize the same feature, and Paste Special is no different. You can access its features via the ribbon, right-click menu and keyboard shortcuts.

1. Paste Special button on the ribbon

The most obvious way to open the Paste Special dialog is clicking Paste > Paste Special on the Home tab, in the Clipboard group:
Paste Special button on the ribbon

2. Paste Special command in the right-click menu

Alternatively, you can right-click a cell where you want to paste the copied data, and then click Paste Special in the context menu.
Paste Special command in the right-click menu

As you may have noticed, 6 most popular paste options appear directly in the pop-up menu, under Paste Options: paste everything (equivalent of CTRL + V), paste values, paste formulas, transpose, paste formatting, and paste link:
6 most popular paste options appear under Paste Options.

If you start hovering over the Paste Special… item in the context menu, a fly-out menu will show up offering 14 more paste options:
A fly-out menu provides additional paste options

To find out what a particular icon does, hover over it. A hit will pop up and Live Preview will take over enabling you to see the paste effect straight away.  This method is especially useful when you have just started learning the feature.

For example, if you hover over the paste transpose icon, you will see a preview of how exactly the copied data will be transposed:
Hovering over the paste transpose icon displays a preview of how the copied data will be transposed.

Tip. If you are not a right-click kind of person and prefer having your hands on the keyboard most of the time, you can open the context menu by pressing the Shift+F10 shortcut or context menu key instead of right-clicking the target cell. On most keyboards, the context menu key  The Context Menu key is located to the right of the spacebar, between Alt and Ctrl.

3. Shortcut for Paste Special

The fastest way to paste a specific aspect of the copied data in Excel is using one of the following shortcuts.

  • Paste Special shortcut for Excel 2016 - 2007: Ctrl+Alt+V
  • Paste Special shortcut for all Excel versions: Alt+E, then S

Both of the above shortcuts open Excel's Paste Special dialog, where you can select the desired option with the mouse or hit a corresponding shortcut key. In the following section, you will find a full list of available paste options and their shortcut keys.

Excel Paste Special shortcut keys

As you already know, Excel's Paste Special dialog can be opened via the Ctrl+Alt+V shortcut combination. After that, you can pick a specific paste option by pressing just one letter key on your keyboard.

Please pay attention that a shortcut key for paste special works only when the Paste Special dialog is already open, and some data has previously been copied to the clipboard.

Shortcut Operation Description
A All Paste the cell contents and formatting.
F Formula Paste only formulas.
V Values Paste only values and not formulas.
T Formats Copy only the cell formats and not values.
C Comments Paste only comments attached to a cell.
N Data Validation Paste only the data validation settings.
H All using source theme Paste all cell contents in the theme formatting applied to the source cell.
X All except borders Paste all cell contents and formatting, but not borders.
W Column width Paste only the column width from the copied cells.
R Formulas and number formats Paste formulas and number formats such as currency symbols, date formats, etc.
U Values and number formats Paste values (but not formulas) and number formats.
D Add Add the copied data to the data in the destination cell(s).
S Subtract Subtract the copied data from the data in the destination cell(s).
M Multiply Multiply the copied data by the data in the destination cell(s).
I Divide Divide the copied data by the data in the destination cell(s).
B Skip blanks Prevent replacing the values in the destination range with blank cells that occur in the copied range.
E Transpose Convert the columns of copied data to rows, and vice versa.
L Link Link the pasted data to the copied data by inserting formulas like =A1.

At first sight, this seems like a lot of keystrokes to remember, but with just a little practice you will be able to paste special in Excel faster than an average user can reach for the mouse. To begin with, you can learn the paste special values shortcut (Ctrl+Alt+V, then V) that you would probably use several times a day.

If you happen to forget a shortcut key, just have a look at the required option in the Paste Special dialog and notice an underlined letter. As you can remember, the paste values shortcut key is V and this letter is underlined in "Values".
Excel Past Special shortcut keys

Examples of using Paste Special in Excel

To move from theory to practice, let's see some of the most popular paste special features in action. Simple and straightforward, these examples may still teach you a couple of unobvious uses.

How to copy comments in Excel

If you want to copy only the comments ignoring the cell values and formatting, proceed in this way:

  1. Select the cell(s) from which you want to copy the comments and press Ctrl + C to copy those cells.
  2. Select the destination cell, or the upper-left cell of the target range.
  3. Press the paste special shortcut (Ctrl + Alt + V), and then press C to paste only comments.
  4. Press the Enter key.

Paste Special feature to copy comments in Excel

As shown in the screenshot below, the comments are copied to the cells in another column (from column A to C), and all existing values in the destination cells are preserved.
Only comments are copied.

How to copy values in Excel

Supposing you've created a summary report from a number of sources, and now you need to send it to your client or supervisor. The report contains a bunch of formulas that pull information from other sheets, and even more formulas that calculate the source data. The question is - how do you send the report with final numbers without cluttering it with tons of initial data? By replacing the formulas with calculated values!

The steps to only paste values in Excel follow below:

  1. Select the cell(s) with formulas and press Ctrl + C to copy them.
  2. Select the destination range. If you don't need to keep the formulas, you can select the same range that you've just copied (cells with formulas).
  3. Press Excel's paste values shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + V, then V.
  4. Press Enter.

Paste Special option to copy values

Done! The formulas are replaced with calculated values.

Copying values in Excel

Tip. If you are copying values to another range and want to keep the original number formats such as the currency symbols or the number of decimal places, press Ctrl+Alt+V, and then U to paste values and number formats.

How to quickly transpose in Excel

There are a few ways to change columns to rows in Excel, and the fastest one is using the Paste Transpose option. Here's how:

  1. Select the table that you want to transpose, and press Ctrl + C to copy it.
  2. Select the upper-left cell of the range where you want to paste the transposed data.
  3. Press the paste special transpose shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + V, then E.
  4. Press Enter.

The result will look something similar to this:
Change columns to rows in Excel by using the paste special transpose shortcut.

As you can see in the screenshot above, in the converted table, the original cell and number formats are nicely kept in place, a small but helpful touch!

To learn other ways to transpose in Excel, please check out this tutorial: How to convert row to column and column to row in Excel.

How to copy column width in Excel

This example will teach you how to quickly set the desired width to all columns of your Excel table.

  1. Set the width for one column the way you want it.
  2. Select the column with the adjusted width (or select any single cell within that column) and press Ctrl + C.
  3. Select the column(s) to which you want to copy the width. To select non-adjacent columns, hold down CTRL while selecting.
  4. Press the Paste Special shortcut Ctrl + Alt + V, and then W.
  5. Click Enter.

Copying the column's width

That's it! Only the column's width is copied to other columns, but not any data contained in the source column.

How to copy a column's width as well as contents

Quite often, when copying data from one column to another you have to adjust the destination column's width manually to accommodate the new values. In this case, you may like the following way to copy the source data AND column width in one fell swoop.

  1. Select the data to be copied and press Ctrl + C.
  2. Right-click the upper-left cell of the target range.
  3. Hover over Paste Special, and then click the Keep Source Column Width icon under Paste, or press the W key on your keyboard.
    Copying a column's width as well as contents

The source data and the column's width are copied to another column in just a couple of mouse clicks!

How to paste and add/subtract/multiply/divide at a time

Performing arithmetic operations in Excel is easy. Usually, a simple equation like =A1*B1 is all what it takes. But if the resulting data is supposed to be numbers rather than formulas, Excel Paste Special can save you a trouble of replacing formulas with their values.

Example 1. Replacing percentages with calculated amounts

Supposing, you have the amounts in column B and tax percentages in column C. Your task is to replace the tax % with the actual tax amount. The quickest way to have it done is this:

  1. Select the amounts (cells B2:B4 in this example), and press Ctrl + C to copy them.
  2. Select the tax percentages, cells C2:C4 in this example.
  3. Press the paste special shortcut (Ctrl + Alt + V), and then either select Multiply under Operations, or press M. This will multiply each of the amounts copied from column B by a percentage in column C in the same row.
  4. Click Enter.
    Paste and multiply at a time.

That's it! As shown in the screenshot below, a tax amount is calculated for each row, and the result of the operation is a value, not formula:
The result of the Paste Special  Multiply operation

By using the same approach, you can quickly increase or reduce an entire column of numbers by a certain percentage. In this case, you input the percentage formula such as =1+20%  in a separate cell, copy it, and then use Excel Paste Special to multiply the source numbers by the value in the copied cell. The detailed steps can be found here: How to increase / reduce a column by percentage.

Example 2. Removing multiple hyperlinks in Excel

This very technique (paste and multiply) can be used to remove all hyperlinks in your worksheet in one go. A regular way of right clicking on each cell and then selecting Remove hyperlink would take forever. Instead, you can just multiply all those unwanted hyperlinks by 1. Sounds odd? That's only until you give it a try :) In summary, here's what you do:

  1. Type 1 in any empty cell, and press Ctrl + C to copy it.
  2. Select all of the hyperlinks that you want to remove.
  3. Press Ctrl+Alt+V, and then M to choose Paste Special > Multiply.
  4. Click Enter.
    Removing multiple hyperlinks in Excel

That's all that it takes! All hyperlinks are removed along with the blue underlined formatting:
All hyperlinks are removed.

Tip. If you want to keep the original links and copy the results (i.e. data without hyperlinks) to some other location, then do as follows: copy the hyperlinks, select the upper-left cell of the target range, and hit the Excel paste values shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+V, then V.

For more information about this and other ways to get rid of hyperlinks in Excel, please see How remove multiple hyperlinks at a time.

Paste Special not working in Excel

If the Paste Special option is missing or not working properly in your Excel, it's likely to be because of one of the following reasons.

Paste Special feature is disabled

Symptoms: Paste Special does not appear in the right-click menu, the paste special shortcut does not work either.

Solution: Enable Paste Special as demonstrated below.

To turn on Paste Special, click File > Options > Advanced. Scroll down to the Cut, copy and paste section, and select the Show Paste Options button when content is pasted box:
Turn on Paste Special in Excel

Third-party add-ins conflicting with Paste Special

If you have a lot of third-party add-ins installed in your Excel, chances are that one of them is causing the issue. To pin down the culprit, perform these steps:

  1. Run Excel in Safe Mode. For this, press and hold the Ctrl key and then click Excel in the list of programs, or double-click the Excel shortcut. You will be asked if you want to open Microsoft Excel in the Safe Mode, and you click Yes.
  2. Check if Paste Special works in the Safe Mode. If it does, enable the add-ins one by one until you spot the one(s) causing the problem. To access the list of add-ins, click File > Options > Add-ins, select Excel add-ins in the Manage box, and click Go. Then do the same for COM add-ins.
  3. If one or more problematic add-ins have been detected, leave them disabled or uninstall them.

This is how you use Paste Special in Excel. Now you know how many powerful features it provides and how you can leverage these features in your worksheets. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

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4 Responses to "Excel Paste Special: copy values, comments, column's width and more"

  1. Gail TB says:

    Another reason why Paste Special does not work is the default settings in Evernote. Even when Evernote is not running, Ctrl+Alt+V creates a new note and pastes your clipboard contents into it. To change this, in Evernote go to Tools > Options > Shortcut keys and delete the shortcut for Paste clipboard, or change it to something else.

  2. John says:

    I really have to commend this blog post. It is the best I have read, giving a complete explanation of how to perform a task in multiple ways. Other sites just show you the obvious stuff which regular users of Excel already know. You also provide great examples in the tutorial. A+++

  3. Buddhadev Das says:

    Dear Sir/ Madam

    we need to know the shortcut formula of Special Paste without Special dialog from formula to values.

    Regards
    Buddhadev

  4. Ananymous says:

    This was really helpful and easy to follow. Thank you!

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