How to Remove Unwanted Formatting from Text

The problem

If you've copied text from a webpage or a PDF file to an email, you've encountered the problem associated with formatting being copied along with the text. The result can look very strange indeed, with broken lines and odd fonts.

You've probably also encountered a similar problem when you copied an email reply into another document. All those crazy >>> characters get copied, along with the broken lines and paragraphs as well.

The solution

The good news is that there are several free programs available that allow you to copy the text you want without the unwanted formatting.

One of my favorites is StripMail. It's a little stand-alone program that takes the clipboard contents and converts it into plain text without formatting.

It removes HTML and Word formatting, removes email reply ">" and "|" characters and will optionally remove line feeds so that broken lines are restored into proper paragraphs. At the touch of a button the stripped text is restored to the clipboard, ready for pasting into your document.

It works like a charm. I use it daily and it's one of the most useful utilities on my PC.

The only downside of StripMail is that you have to run the program each time you want to clean some text. I overcome this by assigning a hotkey to run StripMail to automatically strip the clipboard contents ready for pasting. Removing formatting is then as simple as copying the text, hitting the hotkey and pasting.

You can create the hotkey (as I did) by using the freeware program AutoHotkey but you can also do it in Windows by using a shortcut that's linked to a hotkey. Here's how:

  • First download the StripMail program (268KB). Then use Explorer to navigate to your C:\Program files folder. In that folder create a new folder called StripMail by right mouse clicking and selecting Create/New folder. Once the folder is created, move the StripMail program stripmail.exe you downloaded into that folder.
  • Open Notepad or some other plain text editor and type in the following line:
    stripmail.exe -d -x
    Save the one-line file as stripmail.bat in c:\Program files\StripMail.

    What we have just created is a batch file that, when run, will open StripMail, clean the contents of the clipboard and then exit the program. Now we have to create a hotkey linked to this batch file so that it runs whenever the hotkey is pressed.

  • While in the c:\Program files\StripMail folder, right click your mouse and select Create/New shortcut. In the wizard browse to c:\Program files\Stripmail\stripmail.bat, highlight the file and click OK. In the next screen call the shortcut StripMail. Press OK and exit the wizard.
  • Right click on the shortcut icon and select Properties. Click in the Shortcut key box and then press whatever key combination you want to use as a hotkey. I use F10 but you can use whatever keys you like as long as it doesn't conflict with another keyboard shortcut combination you regularly use. Click OK and you are finished.

Now the next time you want to copy text from an email or website, just copy the text as normal, hit F10 or whatever shortcut you used, and paste. Voila, the unwanted formatting has been removed.

Simpler options

If all that sounds too daunting for you, try the program called PureText. It's simpler to setup than StripMail, because you can create your hotkey from within the program and the same hotkey will perform an automatic paste.

On the downside, it only removes formatting and will not remove email ">>" characters or hard line breaks.

Yet another option is to use a web service. I can recommend two sites: TextFixer and Both are free.

Finally, here's a way you can remove unwanted formatting from text with Microsoft Word. Highlight the text and press Ctrl + Spacebar. This will automatically convert what's highlighted to plain text formatting. It won't remove those pesky email ">>" characters though. You could use Word Search and Replace but StripMail is probably a better option.


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by Bear Bottoms (not verified) on 7. July 2012 - 21:57  (95871)

Warning: Something's Not Right Here! contains malware. Your computer might catch a virus if you visit this site.
Google has found malicious software may be installed onto your computer if you proceed. If you've visited this site in the past or you trust this site, it's possible that it has just recently been compromised by a hacker. You should not proceed, and perhaps try again tomorrow or go somewhere else.

We have already notified that we found malware on the site. For more about the problems found on, visit the Google Safe Browsing diagnostic page.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. July 2012 - 3:40  (95888)

This appears to be a "false positive" from Google as they are the only agent recording this. As you can see from the link below, all of the specialist security scanners say it's clean. Looking at the one comment on the WOT (Web Of Trust) page too, this will be the reason that the WOT rating has also changed (just) from green to orange.

You will also get the same result by scanning with URLVoid. Only Google flags this site as malicious.

by Anupam on 8. July 2012 - 10:38  (95898)

Opening the site on Firefox reports it as an attack site. So, indeed the site has been compromised, or hacked.

MC, it's not a false positive. The site must have been compromised, or hacked. I have often found this to be true, whenever I came across such a page.

I had noticed the same with KernSafe site(TotalMounter) a few days ago. Now, their site is fine... so they must have dealt with the malware attack.

Since the user above has kindly notified the site, they should be able to deal with it, if they are an active lot. The site should be back to normal in a few days, but as of now, it's unsafe to visit the site.

by Anon7 (not verified) on 9. July 2012 - 5:03  (95927)

Firefox sources from Google.

by MidnightCowboy on 9. July 2012 - 5:22  (95928)

I've changed the links out to the Softpedia address now pending what happens with the reported home page.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. July 2012 - 11:22  (95901)

I took this from the Google report:

"The last time Google visited this site was on 2012-07-03, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2012-06-25".

So, according to my my interpretation of this, there was malware on 25th June, but this had gone on 3rd July. Coupled with the realtime scans from VT and URLVoid, my impression is that the site is now clear. Individual users of course can make up their own minds as my wife says I'm not to be trusted with anything! :D

by mr6n8 on 8. July 2012 - 14:51  (95902)

not sure why there is a direct link to the site as the site has a yellow rating at WOT

Softpedia link might be better

by Anupam on 8. July 2012 - 18:36  (95907)

The article is quite old actually, and I think WOT was not used actively that time. And maybe the site got bad WOT ratings recently. Will edit the links tomorrow.

As for the present situation, from my past experience, I think the site is still compromised. Lets see in a few days.

by Erykahx2000 (not verified) on 25. October 2011 - 14:14  (82103)

AWESOME!! thanks very much

by honestjohn (not verified) on 20. October 2011 - 22:20  (81808)

to replace >'s

on pc
first texarea
find what:
2nd textarea
replace with:
nothing.. leave that line blank
Replace all

by Anonymous on 9. September 2009 - 21:13  (32425)

I am looking for a stripper that removes the blue lines on a forwarded email with pictures.

by Anonymous on 9. September 2009 - 0:12  (32349)

Thank you thank you. I'm on a mac and have struggled with this every time I'm exchanging files with someone. I love the web links you posted. The first one was exactly what I was looking for. They are computer gender neutral! You've just saved me hours of work now and in the future. Forwarded info on to my other graphic Mac friends. I spent about an hour saving in different formats, pasting into a variety of simple text applications ,but couldn't shake the dumb line breaks. Bless you. ~gadgetronica

by Anonymous on 11. August 2009 - 19:01  (26901)

I have a list like the following [bold] line of text that are numbered from #1 to #713. The #, domain names, Day, and Date change for each line. I want to remove every thing except the domaine names i.e. Every thing I read regarding how to perform this type of procedure confuses me. Could some one please tell me a simple way to do this?

#1 Tue, 11 Aug 2009 16:18:04 +0000

Thank you.


by MidnightCowboy on 11. August 2009 - 20:45  (26907)

We have a dedicated area in the forum for this type of support request. You would be guaranteed to get a much better response there.

by Anonymous on 12. August 2009 - 2:28  (26917)

Thank you MidnightCowboy. I'll head over that way.

by Anonymous on 25. January 2009 - 14:49  (14669)

Haha, it is not a rocket science, just copy and paste the text to NOTEPAD - !!

by Anonymous on 4. October 2008 - 14:19  (8698)

A VERY simple one is PlainPaste.
Use ^c for regular copy, ^cc (press c twice) to copy as plain text. Maintains general layout (para etc) which I like.
Also works same way for ^v and ^x. eg: regular formatted clipboard content can be copied plain by ^vv. Very simple, very intuitive.
I used EClean for years (more control like StripMail) but PlainPaste is just so easy.

by Anonymous on 2. August 2008 - 18:35  (5362)

Been using Stripmail for years. Couldn't live without it. Thxs for the shortcut.

by Anonymous on 2. August 2008 - 9:59  (5347)

There is no need to create a separate one-line batch file (stripmail.bat). Nor do you need a separate \Program Files\StripMail subfolder to hold only stripmail.exe, if you prefer to cumulate little standalone programs into a general subfolder. Wherever stripmail.exe is, create a Windows shortcut to it, and for convenience the shortcut may be placed somewhere in the Start Menu.
Then right-click on the shortcut, select Properties, and modify the Shortcut tab as follows: (1) make the Target: "C:\Program Files\subfolder\stripmail.exe" -d -x (or wherever its path is), (2) clear the "Start in" box, (3) put your cursor in the "Shortcut key" box and press the key you want for the hotkey, as described in the article. The shortcut alone does everything you want.

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 20:31  (5323)

how about c&p selected text into notepad/ctrl+h....?

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 18:50  (5318)

You might want to check out Firefox Extension too: Copy Plain Text 0.3.3

Robert Daniel

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 18:39  (5317)

Have been using StripMail for over a year now and would not be without it, excellent little program.

by cluther on 1. August 2008 - 15:38  (5314)

I have been using emailSTRIPPER from PaperCut ( for a couple/fews years now and have no complaints about its functionality.

by Anonymous on 21. August 2008 - 1:17  (6358)

Ditto on EmailSTRIPPER

Works great!


by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 8:36  (5298)

If you use Firefox, there's a useful add-on - "Copy Plain Text". Useful for getting rid of HTMl etc., but obviously restricted to the internet.

Stripmail does look useful. Many thanks

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 5:37  (5294)

My favorite is email cleaner, by Steve Chin. I'm using ver 2.02 It removes symbols, html, headers, mix or match, then copies automatically for pasting.

by Corren on 1. August 2008 - 5:14  (5293)

StripMail does not work with non-english language.

by Anonymous on 1. August 2008 - 2:07  (5287)

uhhhhhh, why not just copy, open notepad, paste, copy out of notepad and paste where ypu want unformatted text. Clean easy and doesn't need an extra program

by gizmo.richards on 1. August 2008 - 4:33  (5291)

That's pretty well what PureText does though using PureText through a hotkey is far more convenient that using Notepad.

StripMail does a lot more. It removes hard line feeds and unwanted characters as well as formatting. Sure you could do this manually in Notepad as well but what a pain. It can't compare to ^C, F10, ^V.

by Anonymous on 8. September 2008 - 19:03  (7524)

Why not try hovtext 2.0

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