Formatting Issues When Text Is Pasted Into Blackboard

If you notice multiple fonts or formatting errors within a content item or test question, the issue may be caused by copying and pasting text from word processing programs into Blackboard. Productivity softwares like Microsoft Word and Apple iWork use complex and specialized code to create formatting within documents. Although this code is invisible on the page, it can sometimes be included when copying and pasting text from one program to another. Web browsers and internet applications have their own coding language used for formatting and displaying content and sometimes stuggle to interpret instructions from word processors, resulting in font disparities and the loss of formatting within the web browser. In most cases content will look erratically formatted, while some content may fail to display entirely. Use the helpguide below to prevent and correct these formatting issues.

To provide an idea of the underlying causes of these problems, consider the screenshots below.

In this first image, sample text has been typed up in Microsoft Word, and then pasted into the text box editor in Blackboard. Formatting is simple, including only a single font and a numbered list. Upon pasting, it appears to display correctly.

Sample text pasted into editor

But upon viewing the HTML working to display this text, the complexity of the code and its specific relation to Microsoft Word is displayed.

Text box HTML pasted from Word

References in the code that begin "mso" refer to Microsoft Office, representing instructions that are intended for interpretation by programs within the Office suite. Although it is possible for browsers to ignore most of this language, the potential for format distortion is always there.

Preventing Formatting Issues

Whenever possible, create new content within Blackboard while utilizing the formatting toolbars on the text box editor. Font formatting, ordered lists, tables, spell check and many other functions are available on the text box toolbars.

Text box toolbar

If the content already exists in a document outside of Blackboard, consider first copying and pasting into Notepad or a similar text editor before importing into Blackboard.

Notepad is an extremely basic text editor, unable to create or maintain complex formatting. Any code generated by Word will be stripped away when pasted into Notepad. The positive side effect of this is that any text copied out of Notepad will not carry hidden formatting code that could cause issues in an online course. Unfortunately, this means that most formatting created in Word will be removed and must be modified again within Blackboard.

Text copied in Notepad

Correcting Formatting Issues

For troublesome content already loaded into your online course, follow the steps below to strip away processor-specific formatting.

  • Click to Edit the content item.
  • Place your cursor in the text box, then press Control (CTRL) + A on your keyboard simultaneously. All text within the editor should now be highlighted. Copy the highlighted text.

    Highlighted text in editor

  • Open Notepad or a similar text editor. Once open, paste in the text.

    Text in Notepad

  • Now copy and paste the text from Notepad back into Blackboard. The text should now be free of complex code and will display in your course without issue.