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Why can't I paste from Word?
Lauren Lentini

The title of this blog is a common question we field here in Support, one with a very good answer. Most of us are more familiar with using Microsoft Word or another word-processing program to format text, and it seems so much easier to make text look and behave the way you want it to with these classic programs. Wouldn't it be great if we could just transfer that format straight into our Composer Content element or eNotify Text block? Why can't we? It’s 2018 - why doesn’t this just work?!

Essentially, even though they look pretty similar on the screen, word processors and web editors were designed with vastly different goals in mind and treat text in different - and often incompatible - ways.

According to the University of Kansas, "a word processor is any program through which text (and, often, other types of media) can be formatted and prepared for printing, whether physical or electronic." The key word here is "printing," meaning that the end goal of a word-processed document is an unchanging, static sheet of paper (or a flattened PDF, which has about as much flexibility as that sheet of paper).

A website, on the other hand, is far from static! Websites deliver content on different-sized screens, for users with different abilities and assistive technologies, with ever-changing formats and appearances. Website content can be formatted outside the editor by a CSS file, manipulated by a Javascript file, and altered based on the specs of the end user's device. For this, web content needs as much flexibility as possible. Unlike static paper pages or PDFs, text that can be modified like this is described as being “dynamic,” and that's what a web text editor is designed for.

Web content must traverse physical networks to reach end users, so sending less data leads to a faster, more reliable experience. For efficiency’s sake, the content of a web page’s text is saved and sent separately from the code that informs the browser how it should look on the page. Word processors, however, don't have to worry about how much bulk they're adding to a printable file with their formatting, so they save formatting data right alongside text content.  Moreover, word processors don't worry about making their code compatible with the web because they’re designed to work with printers, not browsers. When you paste content from a word processor into a web editor, all of the previously invisible formatting code comes along for the ride. The poor web editor - which only knows how to handle text - attempts to reconcile the extra formatting instructions, but often fails. At best, content pasted from a word processor adds a large amount of unnecessary code to your site; at worst, that code doesn't even work on your users' devices (and you may not even know it!).

Just because you can't use Word, though, doesn't mean you have to be a code whiz to format copy for your website. Finalsite offers what's known as a rich-text editor, which puts the building blocks of well-formatted HTML content right at your fingertips. “Rich-text” refers to common formatting functionality like bold, italics, underline, and strikethrough; bulleted and numbered lists; text alignment left, center, or right; changing font colors and styles; and more. You can insert tables, links, multimedia content, and even HTML embeds. Best of all, you can select from preformatted headers and site-specific styles that align perfectly with your existing website design. And if you are a code whiz, just use the HTML button to edit the code directly.

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