Excel Copy And Paste

It is worth taking a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the different ways you can copy and paste data in Excel.

Until you know about all the different shortcuts and methods of copying and pasting in Excel, you will not be able to appreciate how much time and effort can be saved by introducing these into your daily working practises.

This page provides a brief overview of a Simple Excel Copy & Paste, as well as the Excel Paste Special command. We also provide a description of the Excel Copy-Paste shortcuts CTRL-D and CTRL-R.


Simple Excel Copy and Paste

The most simple Excel copy & paste is done by the following steps:

  1. Select an Excel cell, or range of cells.
  2. Copy the cell(s) by either:

    • Right clicking with the mouse and selecting 'Copy' from this menu;
    • Selecting 'Copy' from the home tab of the Excel ribbon (or the Edit menu in older versions of Excel);
    • Using the keyboard shortcut, CTRL-C (i.e. select the CTRL key and while holding this down, press C).
  3. Click on the location where you want to paste the copied cell(s).
  4. Paste the copied cell(s) by either:

    • Right clicking with the mouse and selecting 'Paste' from this menu;
    • Selecting 'Paste' from the home tab of the Excel ribbon (or the Edit menu in older versions of Excel);
    • Using the keyboard shortcut, CTRL-V (i.e. select the CTRL key and while holding this down, press V).

Note that there are a few Excel copy and paste rules that you should be aware of:


Paste Special

Normally when you perform an Excel copy and paste, all information from the copied cell(s) is pasted into the new cell(s). This includes any formulas or other cell contents, and the cell formatting.

However, sometimes you might want to only paste one part of the original copied cells, (for example, you might want to paste the values but not the formulas or the formatting) into the new range. You can do this using the Excel 'Paste Special' command, which is found in the menu that appears when you right click the mouse.

The 'Paste Special' command can also be accessed from the home tab of recent versions of Excel (or the Edit menu in Excel 2003).

In recent versions of Excel (Excel 2010 or Excel 2013), the right click menu and the 'Paste' menu contain 'Paste Special' shortcuts. Examples of these are shown below:

Examples of Paste Special Shortcuts:

Examples of Paste Special Shortcuts

Paste Special Values Example

A simple paste special example is shown in the two images below.

The first image shows the set of cells A1-A15, which have coloured formatting and contain data values. If we want to copy the values, but not the formatting of cells A1-A15, into cells B1-B15, you would first select and copy cells A1-A15, then select cell B1 (or cells B1-B15) and then select Paste Special (from the Excel ribbon or the mouse right-click menu). You will then be presented with the 'Paste Special' dialog box (also shown in the left image below). Select the option Values from this dialog box and click OK.

The image on the right below shows the result of the Paste Special. Note that the values from cells A1-A15 have been copied into cells B1-B15, but the formatting has not been copied across.

Excel Paste Special Values Example
Paste Special OptionsPaste Special Values Result

Of course, if you have one of the more recent version of Excel (Excel 2010 or later), you wouldn't need to open up the 'Paste Special' dialog box, as you can paste values only by using the Paste Special Values shortcut, Paste Special Values Shortcut.


Paste Special Transpose

You can see, from the above example, that the Values option is just one of several options linked to the Excel Paste Special feature.

As well as pasting selected attributes of the copied cells, the Paste Special command can be used to perform simple transformations. One example is the Transpose option which, in the example below, has been used to copy cells A1-A6, and paste these into the cell range C1-H1.

Excel Paste Special Transpose Example
Before Paste Special TransposePaste Special Transpose Result

Use Paste Special to Perform Arithmetic Operations

The Paste Special command can also be used to perform a simple arithmetic operation on the contents of the target cells. The values in the copied cells are added to, subtracted from, multiplied by or used to divide the target cells.

An example of this is shown below. Columns A and B of the example spreadsheet both contain numeric values and the Paste Special command is used to subtract the values in column A from the values in column B. This is done by copying column A, clicking on column B, and then selecting 'Paste Special', with the Subtract option.

Excel Paste Special Subtract Example
Before Paste Special SubtractPaste Special Subtract Result

Note that, in the above example, instead of subtracting every cell of column A from column B, we could have subtracted a single cell of column A from every cell of column B. To do this, simply copy a single cell to start with, instead of a range of cells. Then, as in the example above, click on column B and select the Paste Special→Subtract option.


Copy Using CTRL-D or CTRL-R

Another convenient way to copy the values from one (or more) cells into adjacent cells is to use the CTRL-D or CTRL-R shortcuts.

CTRL-D

The CTRL-D shortcut copies the contents of a cell or row into the cell(s) below. There are two ways in which this shortcut works:

  1. If you select one or more cells in a single row and press CTRL-D (i.e. press the CTRL key and, while keeping this pressed down, press the d key), the contents from the row above the selected row are copied into the selected row.

    CTRL-D to copy to a single row
    pressing CTRL-D copies the contents of cells A1-C1 into cells A2-C2
  2. If you select cells in more than one row and press CTRL-D, the contents from the cells in the top row of the selected range are copied down to all the other rows in the selected range.

    CTRL-D to copy to multiple rows
    pressing CTRL-D copies the contents of cells A1-C1 into cells A2-C4

CTRL-R

The CTRL-R shortcut copies the contents of a cell or column into the cell(s) to the right. Again, there are two ways in which this shortcut works:

  1. If you select one or more cells in a single column and press CTRL-R (i.e. press the CTRL key and, while keeping this pressed down, press the r key), the contents from the row to the left of the selected column are copied into the selected column.

    CTRL-R to copy to a single column
    pressing CTRL-R copies the contents of cells A1-A3 into cells B1-B3.
  2. If you select cells in more than one column and press CTRL-R, the contents from the cells in the leftmost column of the selected range are copied across to all the other columns in the selected range.

    CTRL-R to copy to multiple columns
    pressing CTRL-R copies the contents of cells A1-A3 into cells B1-D3

Copy a Worksheet

Finally, it is worth mentioning how to duplicate a worksheet in Excel. To do this: