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Why does copying text from some sites cause a program to stop working?


Hi, Leo. I do a lot of recipe research and am forever trying to copy and paste recipes. I only do this for my own use. I find that in most instances when I click on the copy function it says something has stopped working. I found a way to do this but it’s not the way I like to do it. Can you tell me why sites do this? As I stated, it’s for my own use. I love to cook and I do volunteer work and love to prepare many of recipes for the people I volunteer for. Thank you.

In this excerpt from Answercast #98 I look at a computer that is having problems with the copy/paste function in a browser.

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Copying text from websites

Well, first of all, if something has stopped working, that’s probably not the site purposefully trying to prevent you from copying things.

Check for browser problems

That is a problem. “Stopped working” should basically never happen. So, my first reaction is to say – whatever browser you’re using; whatever web browser you’re using, try a different one. So, if you’re using Internet Explorer, try Google Chrome or try Firefox – or if you’re using one of those, try Internet Explorer.

The problem here is that, clearly, there is something wrong with the copy command that is somehow causing (what I’m presuming is the browser itself) to actually crash. The quickest way to determine whether or not that’s actually the problem is to try a different browser.

Or, the other thing you can do (if you’re using Google Chrome, for example, or Firefox… whichever one is exhibiting this behavior) is to re-download them. Download a fresh copy. Perhaps even uninstall them first and re-download them.

Check for browser addons

The other thing you might try would be to double check the add-ons that are in the browser. Make sure that an add-on isn’t somehow interfering with the copy command.

Finally, and this is not necessarily obvious, but Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer but Windows Explorer, the file manager that you use in Windows), it too has the ability to have add-ons. Because of the way Windows is architected it is possible that other programs could be interfering with your ability to copy.

So, in Windows Explorer look for, and potentially disable, any unexpected add-ons and see if those make a difference.

I’ve got articles on both of these topics, “Disabling Internet Explorer add-ons” and “Disabling Windows Explorer add-ons.” Like I said, they’re two different things, but that is something else worth trying.

Copying from the internet

Ultimately, what you’re trying to do is a fine, fine thing. I don’t think anybody would have a problem with what you’re copying. Like I said, I don’t believe the sites are trying to disable you from copying things or prevent you from copying things. I think that they are simply not involved in the problem. The problem is something actually on your PC.

Now, as an alternative to copy/pasting (if for example, for whatever reason, we can’t get this fixed), the other approach that I think would be valuable to consider would be to install a print to PDF printer driver.

What that would allow you to do is, instead of copy/pasting the recipe that you see on the screen, you can actually, in your browser, hit “File” and then “Print.” Print a copy of it to a PDF. Then you’ve got a PDF, an image of the actual page that the recipe is on, preserved on your computer as a .pdf file.

You can then browse using Adobe Reader or FoxIt Reader or any of a number of different alternatives.

So that’s another approach to being able to capture the recipes that you’re looking to save in a way that actually bypasses copy/paste completely.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

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4 comments on “Why does copying text from some sites cause a program to stop working?”

  1. I wonder if “it says something has stopped working” is really the website’s “disable right-click” script giving a message?

    Or course, without a specific website and message, we’re only guessing.

  2. We can face this issue when we copy tabular data or formatted content and try to paste directly in a Word Processing or Spreadsheet application. Because, the copy doesn’t just lift the text but a lot of things off the web page that’s not visible on the screen and when we paste it, the application “filters” start working on that to represent it in the best possible manner in the application. Now, sometimes this may involve a lot of processing and memory overload – that’s when the OS, browser, open applications may all start acting up due to scarcity of processing resources.

    To overcome such a situation, best option is already suggested by Leo – print to pdf, but if you wanted the text or the numbers, to do some editing of your own, paste the copied content first to a plain “text editor” like Notepad (or Gedit on Linux), then copy from there and paste in your application. Also, don’t select and copy entire pages but portions. If you need entire pages, then go for the pdf option or try “Save As HTML/Web Page” option that most browsers have.


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