Pasting images into Office: size concerns

Does pasting an image into Office take up more space than inserting it?

Gary Z read our tip about pasting images into Office and asks:

I remember reading years ago that graphics are copied to the clipboard in BMP. Huge files. Then if paste HUGE increase in Word file size. So INSERT jpg, tiff, png. If still true why copy/paste pics?”

Other readers had similar concerns based on warnings from many years ago. It’s an interesting question that we’ve tested.

The short answer

Image sizes and how they are added to Office documents make no practical difference due to the far greater memory available on modern computers and the compression now used when saving documents.

Images are not always copied to the clipboard using the BMP format. The clipboard image format depends on the source image and the program used to get the copy.

The facts

Let’s look at the facts. Is there a size difference between inserting a JPG file into Word and copying the same image to the clipboard then pasting into a document?

We chose a small 84kb JPG image and added it into a Word document in different ways. Here’s the results:

Insert | Picture

This is the control/baseline method within Word, selecting Insert | Picture from the menu,

DeclarationImage.jpg is 84kb and that is saved directly into the document

Pasted from JPG file

Select the image file in Windows Explorer, choose Copy. Switch to Word and choose Paste.

The 84kb JPG is copied to clipboard and that is pasted into Word. Same size as the original.

Pasted from Windows Photo viewer

Open the image in Windows Photo viewer, choose File | Copy (Ctrl + C) from the menu. Switch to Word and choose Paste.

The 84kb JPG is copied to clipboard and that is pasted into Word. Same size as the original.

Pasted from Windows Paint

Open the image in Windows Paint (supplied with Windows), choose Select All then Copy. Switch to Word and choose Paste.

566kb is copied to the clipboard and that is pasted into Word. This is the uncompressed version of the same image, over 6 times larger than the JPG file. It seems Paint decompresses the JPG image for editing and so that’s what is copied to the clipboard.

Pasted from Photoshop Elements

Open the image in Adobe Photoshop Elements (supplied with Windows), choose Select All then Copy. Switch to Word and choose Paste.

32kb is copied to the clipboard and pasted into Word. That’s a surprise since it’s less than half the size of the original image.

The long answer

Copying from an image viewing program into Word is no different from using Insert | Picture from the menu. The image size, resolution and memory usage are the same for either method.

Based on reader feedback, many people prefer to select images using another image program that has more options and is faster than the in-built File | Open dialog.

Using an image editing program gives varying results when pasted into Office. In some cases the copied JPG image is larger (which was expected) and, at least in one case, smaller (which was not expected at all).

However this is mostly a geeky and academic concern. Modern computers have a lot more memory and better memory management than the ‘olden days’ when large memory use by the clipboard was a genuine concern.

In addition, modern document file formats compress everything automatically. Any uncompressed images like TIFF or RAW formats are shrunk down for storage inside a .docx or equivalent document. Word has options for shrinking images saved within a document ( Picture Tools | Format | Compress Images).

The only time memory use or document size may be a concern is with extremely large images or a vast number of uncompressed images in a single document.

Office 2007 and later versions of Office use ‘Office Open XML’ formats which are automatically compressed. All the ‘new’ formats are actually ZIP files and Microsoft has added clever code to further reduce document file sizes.

There’s no reason to worry about the size of images being pasted to/from Office in any normal situation. Modern computer and software can handle it so use whatever method works for you and don’t worry too much (or at all) about image sizes.

Test details

For these tests we used Windows 8.1, Office 2013 SP1 and SaveMe to examine the clipboard contents.

TIFF images may be compressed or not depending on how they were saved. JPG and PNG images are always compressed. We chose a small JPG image for these tests since JPG’s are very common and will have obvious size differences between a compressed and uncompressed form.