Ctrl+V Pasting is Flakey

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 21, 2019)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


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. ...

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