Word 2004: Paste Without Formatting also removes non-breaking spaces

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 30th, 2004 • 11:39 pm

A while ago, I wrote a tip about how you can add a shortcut to Word 2004 for a “Paste Without Formatting” command, which strips the contents of the Clipboard from unwanted character style formatting (bold, color, font size, etc.) before pasting it into your Word document.

I use this shortcut all the time, either when pasting text copied from another application (such as Mail or Safari) or when pasting text copied from another Word document, because far too often I have to work with Word documents created by other people which contain all kinds of manual formatting that does not agree at all with my styles-based workflow and Word templates.

The trouble is that, as usual, Microsoft has managed to mar a useful feature with unwanted behaviours. More specifically, when I copy text from French-language documents, the text often includes non-breaking spaces. The non-breaking space is an important character in French punctuation, which is required before several very common punctuation signs in French.

Now, the thing to understand here is that the non-breaking space is not character formatting. It is not a character “style” that’s added to a regular space character in order to make it non-breaking. It’s actually a separate character in the standard Mac character set.

Yet, for some reason, Microsoft has decided that non-breaking spaces fall under the “character formatting” category. So the algorithm used by Word to strip the formatting from copied text when pasting it with the “Paste Without Formatting” command actually replaces non-breaking spaces with regular spaces!

This is very frustrating. I often have to copy and paste French text that includes non-breaking spaces, and I often want to strip the formatting from this copied text. But I do not want to lose the non-breaking spaces!

Once again, Microsoft has managed to make life more difficult from me.

Of course, I am quite sure that, if the issue was raised with the MacBU staff, they would find valid reasons to replace non-breaking spaces with regular spaces in this process. But I am afraid none of these hypothetical reasons apply to my situation. And I am also afraid that treating non-breaking spaces as character formatting rather than actual characters makes no sense either from a purely technical or from a word processing point of view.

But that’s Microsoft for you.

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