| By Lincoln Spector |
You have arrays of sophisticated computer tools to choose from for almost any endeavor, but you can’t seem to get your text in plain form anymore, even when that’s the only thing you need.
For times when simplest is best, here are some tools for transforming formatted or bitmapped material into words — just words.
When none of your many options will do
Today’s computer tools handle images, music, and videos with ease. And for a long time now, you’ve had choices among sophisticated word processors, too: you can gussy up written language by picking fancy fonts and then adding bold, italic, and/or underlining for emphasis. You can choose from dozens of paragraph styles or design whole pages, arranging all the elements into a complete document.
But there are also those times when all you want is the plain, unvarnished, editable text — and getting it isn’t easy. Perhaps you’ve copied a paragraph from a webpage and want to paste it into an e-mail (with proper citation, of course). But you don’t want it in that ugly font. Maybe you need to grab the exact wording of an error message. Or even more complicated, your lawyer just e-mailed you a .pdf of an important contract. You can read it, but you can’t search or edit it because, technically speaking, there is no text there — it’s just one big, long, bitmapped image of text.
For those situations when you need to change formatted text (or a bitmap of text) into pure, simple words, there are free apps that are up for the task. I’ll start with three that let you copy formatted text to Windows’ clipboard, then paste it into any other app as plain, unformatted text. I’ll also tell you about three OCR tools that can convert bitmapped text into the real thing — and none of them need a scanner.
Dump the formatting and just paste the text
What’s the best way to strip formatting from a block of text? The method most PC users employ is to copy it into Notepad, then copy and paste it again into its final destination (such as an e-mail message). But that’s a hassle. Another option: Word has a Paste Text Only option, but that helps only if the application you’re pasting into happens to be Word.
Here are three better, quicker, and easier solutions. Any one of them can make plain-text pasting so easy that you can forget about Word’s Paste Text Only feature.