Ctrl+V Pasting is Flakey

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 2, 2016)


When I am working in Excel, I copy and paste information quite a bit. I copy things using Ctrl+C, and then paste them using Ctrl+V. Sometimes, however, Ctrl+V does not exhibit the expected behavior. For instance, when I copy a cell that contains a formula, and then paste the formula into a cell in a different workbook, I expect Excel to paste the formula. Sometimes Ctrl+V results in just the result of the formula being pasted, the same as if I chose Values from the Paste Special dialog box.

It appears that this behavior is closely related to how the Excel workbooks are opened. If I open two workbooks in the same instance of Excel, I can copy and paste formulas from one workbook to another with no problem. If, however, I open two workbooks in different instances of Excel, then Ctrl+V results in values being pasted from one workbook to the other, rather than formulas.

The easiest way to check whether your workbooks are open in different instances of Excel is to take a look at the Window menu. If you click the Window menu in Excel, you should be able to see all your open workbooks at the bottom of the menu. If you cannot, then you know that the workbook (or workbooks) missing from the menu are open in a different instance of Excel.

If you want to paste formulas from one workbook to another, the solution is to close one of the workbooks and then reopen it within the other instance of Excel. In other words, open it by using the Open tool or by choosing File | Open.

On a related note, if you want to know exactly how your pasting will occur (rather than leaving it up to Excel), you should use Edit | Paste Special. Remember, however, that if you try to copy formulas from one instance of Excel to another, you get a very different set of options in the Paste Special dialog box than you get if you are copying within the same instance of Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2362) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Crashing when Searching

If you use Excel's Open dialog box to search for files and you notice that doing so ends up crashing your system, you may ...

Discover More

Deleting Macros from within a Macro

Macros are really helpful, but you may want to actually delete a macro from within another macro. This is not as easy as ...

Discover More

Changing Icons

Windows provide a surprising amount of flexibility when it comes to what you see on the screen. You can even make changes ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Deleting Everything Up to a Character Sequence

Sometimes you have too much information in a cell and you need to "pare down" what is there to get to the info you really ...

Discover More

Moving and Copying Cells

At the very heart of editing is the ability to move and copy cells in a worksheet. Understanding the differences between ...

Discover More

Symbols Convert to Numbers in Excel

Insert a symbol into a cell, and it should stay there, right? What if the symbol changes to another character, such as a ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 4 + 4?

2016-02-06 10:24:18


Thanks, Thomas.


2016-02-06 10:23:08

Thomas Redd

Thanks Allen for revamping the way the daily tips email is formatted! I really appreciate that help!

And Thanks DJQ for your helpful tip in the comment below! That is really a neat function I did not know about. That will make lots of my work much easier!

What a wonderful site you have here! I am so grateful for all you do!

2016-02-04 12:30:47



In the COPY-FROM sheet, press CTRL~ [~ is 'tilda' the capital just to the left of 1 at the top of the keyboard.] This displays all formulae (sometimes useful for other reasons). COPY whatever cells you want. In the COPY-TO sheet, PASTE/SPECIAL/TEXT.

CTRL~ in the COPY-FROM sheet to hide formulae.

2016-02-02 11:13:15


This may have been addressed in another post but there are times when I need 'Past Special' or 'Transpose' and I don't want to reach for the mouse. I decided the best way to that is to customize the taskbar so that instead or Ctrl + V dropping in something other than what I need. What I did was set it up to where I hit Alt+2 [or whatever place you chose]. This saves the seconds that add up throughout the day

2012-10-27 07:42:25


Note the info at the bottom of the tip. This info only applies to up thru Excel 2003. Windows 7 and 8, or maybe
Excel 2007 and 2010 will NOT allow two or more complete Excel runs at the same time.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.