In previous posts (including here and here) I've explored some of my favorite new features in Project 2010. This week, I look at a nice improvement to one of the more mundane features of desktop apps: Copy and Paste.
Not Glamorous, But Still a Great 2010 Improvement
Copy and Paste via the Windows Clipboard is such a basic, unglamorous feature that I was surprised to see some improvements in this area. Yet in 2010 you'll find better pasting of structured, tabular data from Project to Word and Excel.
Let's start with the Copy and Paste experience in Office 2007 applications (and indeed what I describe here is what you'd experience in all versions prior to 2010). Let's start first with Excel.
Tables and Chairs
I'll start in the Resource Sheet view in Project. I have the Cost table applied, and I'd like to paste this tabular data into Excel for some additional analysis.
TIP Click the screenshot image to see a larger view.
Next I'll click the Select All button in the upper left corner of the table to select all values, and copy the selection to the Clipboard.
I switch to Excel, and past the Clipboard contents into a new workbook. Here's the result I get:
That's better but of course what didn't get pasted over from Project are the column headings (i.e. the field names). Let's repeat the process with Project 2010 and see the improvement. I start with the same data in the Resource Sheet view, Cost table in Project 2010. This time, after copying from Project and pasting into Excel, I get this result:
Again, I need to widen rows to see all the data (sheesh, why don't I have an option to auto-widen columns in Excel) but you can see the main improvement: the Project column labels (i.e. the field names) were pasted into Excel (into row 1_ along with the tabular data (rows 2 through 9).
This is a subtle but great improvement when pasting into Excel. Previously there really was no practical way to get the Project column labels into Excel, other than by retyping them.
If You Know I Want a Table, Just Give Me the Table
Next, let's see what improvements have been made when pasting into Word. Let's say I'd like to paste the "Editorial" summary task and its subtasks' tabular data from the Gantt Chart view, Entry table from Project into Word. First, here's my experience with Project and Word 2007. I begin by selecting the tabular data I want in Project.
Upon pasting into Word 2007, I get this sad looking result (shown with formatting symbols visible so we can see that what was pasted was really tab-separated data):
With a few additional steps I can convert this tab-separated data into a basic table in Word, but I suspect many Word users don't even know about its "convert text to table" feature.
Let's see the much improved experience in 2010. Again, I start with the same tabular data from the Gantt Chart, Entry table in Project 2010:
Upon pasting into Word 2010, I get this much better-looking result:
This time the paste result is a real Word table, complete with the column headings from Project. In addition, Word has preserved the outline structure of the task list from Project--note how the subtask names like "Copyedit" are indented three spaces, and the summary task name "Editorial" is formatted as bold. This is a subtle and very nice touch.
I applaud the engineers on the Project team who worked on the Copy and Paste improvements. It's not a marquee new feature like the Timeline view, in fact there's really no new UI to advertise the improved functionality. That's OK, in fact it's great--I get the result that I really want, without any extra fuss. The best UI is sometimes no UI at all.
There may be more improvements to Copy and Paste than I've explored here. For example, I didn't look for improvements when pasting tabular data from Project into PowerPoint, Access, Visio and other Office applications other than Excel and Word. If you've come across some similar improvements, let us know via a comment below.
Hands-on with Project Step by Step
To read more about this blog entry's subjects in the two most recent editions of Tim Johnson's and my Project Step by Step books, see the following cross-references.
Improved Copy and Paste between Project, Word and Excel
- Project 2010 Step by Step: "Copying Project Data to Other Programs," pg. 372.
- Project 2007 Step by Step: None! The improved Copy and Paste functionilty was introduced in Project 2010. But if you are running Project 2007, see our advice on getting the best results in "Copying and Pasting with Project," pg. 262.