Spreadsheet Design:
Sharing Data

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want Working with Numbers: 2007,2010,2013,2016  or españolIcon: Change web

Microsoft Office programs and many others can include many kinds of documents and parts of documents as part of their own documents. Programs that can share data easily together in this way are called integrated.

A Word document could include data from a spreadsheet, like a table or a current total, for example. A spreadsheet could use a Word document, perhaps as part of the documentation.

Excel table in Word document

Data from an Excel table
inserted into Word document

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Numbers

Before you start...

Project 1: Excel IntroTo subtopics

Project 2: Excel BasicsTo subtopics    

Project 3: Format & ArrangeTo subtopics

Project 4: Groups & FormulasTo subtopics

Project 5: Design
    AnalysisTo subtopics
    What If...To subtopics
    Logical TestsTo subtopics
    Sharing Data To subtopics
    FootprintDocument Properties
    ExercisesTo subtopics



Copy and Paste often works well to transport data between programs. Sometimes it makes a mangled mess! If the right import filters are installed, all will be well.

Even when things go well, you may lose formatting. Some features just don't translate well between programs.

Examples of Pasting

The images below show how the Grades Calculator pastes in four different situations. The original Excel cells (A1:E15) were copied and then pasted in different ways to different programs. The results varied quite a bit!

Original in Excel Table from Excel pasted
Pasted to Word


Table from Excel pasted into Word

Some changes in formatting, but not much. Word has an excellent import filter for Excel material.

Pasted as Rich Text Format in Word


Table from Excel pasted as Rich Text Format

Rich Text Format is an good alternative when the destination program does not have an import filter for your material.

The table structure is kept but there is a problem with merged cells. Some formatting is lost. You are likely to lose advanced formatting features like dotted borders or gradient fills.

Pasted to WordPad, a simple word processor


Table from Excel pasted into WordPad

Lots of formatting is lost. The column headings are not lined up. Does not look too good.

Pasted to Notepad, a simple text editor Table from Excel pasted into Notepad

Whoops. The data is lined up neatly with tab stops, but the column labels are hanging out in space. Other text editors may do a better job than Notepad, which is a very basic text editor.

Interestingly, the Final Average shows all the decimal places. The black rectangles show where line breaks were in the original.

Paste Special

In many applications, including Microsoft Office programs, you can use the command Paste Special to control the type of object you get when you paste. To keep the source data in useable shape, Paste Special can turn it into a(n):

  • embedded object
  • linked object
  • shortcut icon
  • picture

Paste Special as:

How it behaves

Embedded object

Inserts a copy of source material. Becomes part of the destination document.

Changes: Will not change if source document changes. You can change the embedded object, but the source document will not change to match.

Editing: You can edit and make changes in place, using original program's toolbars. You don't have to switch windows.

Advantage: All data is in one file, in one place

Disadvantage: File is larger than with other methods. Perhaps MUCH larger. Object will not have the latest data if the original changes.

Linked object

Inserts a linked copy of source material.

Changes: Will change if source document changes. You cannot make changes in the object you see in the destination document.

Editing: In original program only. Cannot edit in place.

Advantage: Shows the latest version of the source. File size is less than for embedded object.

Disadvantage: Must have access to both the source and destination files. Otherwise the linked data will not be available. Editing or changing is more awkward than with embedded object. Will use size and formatting of source on re-opening.


Clickable link to the source document.

Advantage: Adds little to the destination file's size.

Disadvantage: You must click on the icon to open the source program to see the data. It is not displayed in the document itself. This is not suitable for printed documents. Both documents must be available to the computer.


Snapshot image of the source document.

Changes: Will not change if source document changes.

Edit: With a Drawing tools or graphics program, like any other picture.

Advantage: You can paste an image of material that cannot be included by embedding or linking. The picture shows exactly how the source looked at the time you copied it.

Disadvantages: The image cannot readily be edited or updated. Images add a lot to the size of the file.

WarningSharing data can strain your computer's resources. You have two open programs and some background software that handles the communications between them. This eats up a lot of memory and other resources. Save your work before you start to set up any kind of sharing. That way, if your computer locks up, you won't lose all your work.

Now you are ready to practice with the different kinds of data sharing. Be careful. If your computer starts to slow down while you work, you do not have enough resources for what you are trying to do. If you think you SHOULD have enough resources, reboot the computer. (That is, shut down the computer and start it up again.) Perhaps that will free up the resources you need.