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Microsoft launches an AI-powered copy-and-paste tool. Here's how you can use it

Posted May 22, 2024 | Windows


Bloomberg/Getty Images

Copying and pasting text in Windows has stayed largely the same over the years. Now, Microsoft is expanding the feature with a hefty dose of AI. Added to the free PowerToys utility on Tuesday, the new Advanced Paste tool not only lets you choose the format for pasted text, but offers AI powers to summarize, rewrite, or translate the text.

To take Advanced Paste for a spin, you’ll need the latest version of PowerToys. If you don’t yet have the program, browse to Microsoft’s Learn page for PowerToys, the Microsoft Store page for PowerToys, or the GitHub page, and install it. If you already have the utility, open it from the Windows System Tray and install the latest update, to get version 0.80.1.

Microsoft's AI-powered Advanced Paste tool

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

In PowerToys, open the settings page for Advanced Paste. Make sure the switch is turned on for “Enable Advanced Paste.” The switch for Clipboard history should also be on. Using the tool’s built-in AI skills requires an API key from OpenAI, so we’ll get to that shortly. Right off the bat, though, you can access a menu that lets you choose how you want to paste any copied text.

Open a plain text file or document and copy some text. Next, press the default shortcut of Windows key + Shift + V. The Advanced Paste menu gives you three choices: 1) Paste as plain text, 2) Paste as markdown, and 3) Paste as JSON.

Pasting as plain text removes any formatting. Pasting as markdown preserves the formatting for HTML content by converting it into the Markdown format. This option is helpful if you write web-based content that you need to use in an application or system that supports Markdown.

Also: How to remap keys using Keyboard Manager in Microsoft’s PowerToys

Pasting as JSON converts the text into the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format used in many programming languages and files. Unless you’re working with HTML or programming languages, you’ll likely find plain text the most useful.

Another option lets you access your clipboard history, which ties into the cloud-based universal clipboard built into Windows 10 and Windows 11. Click this option to see a list of recent items that you’ve copied. Select the one you want to paste and then choose Paste as plain text from the menu.

The real power of Advanced Paste comes from its AI capabilities. To set this up, you’ll need that API key from OpenAI as well as available credits in your account. If you don’t already have a spare key, browse to the OpenAI API Keys page. Sign in with your account or create one if necessary.

Click the button for “Create new secret key.” At the secret key window, click the button for “Create secret key.” You can also name the key if you wish. Clip Copy to copy the key to the clipboard.

Return to the PowerToys settings screen for Advanced Paste. Click the Enable button next to Enable Paste with AI. Paste the API key and click Save. Now you’re ready to try the tool’s AI skills.

Open a text file or document and copy some text. Press Windows key + Shift + V to display the Advanced Paste menu. In the field for “Describe what format you want,” you can now type a request that makes use of the AI features. Here are a few examples from Microsoft:

  • Summarize text: Copy lengthy text from the clipboard and ask the tool to summarize it.
  • Translate text: Copy the text from the clipboard in one language and ask the tool to translate it into another language.
  • Generate code: Copy a description of a function from the clipboard and ask the tool to generate the code for it.
  • Transform text: Copy text from the clipboard and ask the tool to rewrite it in a specific style, such as a professional email or a casual message.
  • Stylize text: Copy text from the clipboard and ask the tool to rewrite it in the style of a well-known author, book, or speaker. For this example, Microsoft suggested that you ask the tool to paste the text as if it were written by Mark Twain or Shakespeare.

After you submit your request, the generated text should appear in the field, from where you can paste it into your current file or document.

I ran a few requests. In one, I asked Advanced Paste to summarize an article. In another, I asked it to translate an article from English into Italian. And in a third, I asked it to rewrite the text as if it were written by Shakespeare. In each case, the results were interesting, amusing, and potentially useful. You should try Advanced Paste for its AI skills alone.



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