How to paste nicely into Excel from MATLAB variable editor?

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One can readily paste data from Excel into a MATLAB cell array in the variable editor using Paste Excel Data (Ctrl-Shift-V), but how exactly does one reverse this operation?
I find cells that contain [] become strings in Excel, where I expect blank cells, and strings get unwanted quotes at the start and end.
The net result of this is if you copy and paste some cells in Excel comprising some text, some numeric and some blanks into a MATLAB cell array - it looks fine in MATLAB - but when you copy back to Excel you don't have what you started out with.
Easy copy / paste between Excel and MATLAB should be a breeze in 2015, shouldn't it? What am I doing wrong? Perhaps there is or needs to be a "Copy Excel Data" function to match "Paste Excel Data" (although it is nicer to just use standard Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V)?
Thanks for reading this.

Accepted Answer

Julian on 9 Mar 2015
It is not directly possible. From Mathworks:
I understand that you would like to paste cells with strings from the MATLAB Variables editor to Microsoft Excel, but noted some inconsistencies to-from copy/paste operations. Specifically, you found that copying from MATLAB to Excel in this way introduces single quotation marks and empty square brackets depending on whether or not the cell element has a string or is an empty matrix.
Unfortunately, while the MATLAB Variables editor has a context menu item to paste values from Excel, I do not think there is an immediate option in Microsoft Excel to paste from MATLAB. I tried using Excel's Text Import Wizard to perform this paste operation into Excel, but unfortunately none of the options I explored worked.
That said, I can think of two possible workarounds to working between MATLAB and Excel without the use of "xlsread/xlswrite" or "readtable/writetable": 1. Copy the cell array from the MATLAB Variables editor, and then paste to Excel as you have done before. Then, from Excel, press Ctrl+F to Find/Replace all single quotes and square brackets [] with empty strings. 2. Consider using MathWork's Spreadsheet Link EX to use MATLAB from Microsoft Excel. The following link provides a high-level overview of Spreadsheet Link EX and its available features:
  1 Comment
Will Reeves
Will Reeves on 27 Sep 2023
Please can there be a checkbox in the viewer to enable the hiding of speach marks? it would be really helpful. Or perhaps a "copy as" similar to the "paste excel data" (which initself feels like a bit of a hack?)

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More Answers (9)

P D McClanahan
P D McClanahan on 16 Nov 2017
One easy workaround is to: 1) Paste into Google sheets, which seems to work fine 2) Then copy from Google sheets into Excel

Lex on 8 May 2021
This answer is very late given when the question was asked, but I found success just directly copy and pasting (Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V) , then going to "Data" and selecting "Text to Columns" and then following the instructions.
You would have to play with it to figure out what works for you, but there are instructions online how to use "Text to Columns."

Jg on 21 Jan 2016
I'm no Matlab guru so I like simple solutions like you're looking for.
I've had luck with Ctrl+C to copy from the variable editor, then paste into Microsoft Word. Then copy and paste from word to Excel.
May work for you too.

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Zhe on 5 Jul 2017
Copy and paste to Google Sheets then to Excel

Daniel on 25 Feb 2015
I don't know much about converting back Excel, but you might want to look into xlswrite. That command may do the trick for you.

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Sascha Schlechtweg
Sascha Schlechtweg on 15 May 2017
Using Ctrl+C and Ctrl + V in OpenOffice worked perfectly fine for me. Maybe it helps.
Best regards

Julian on 15 May 2017
Thanks for your point. I don't have OpenOffice but I confirm that behaviour I first complained about still applies in MATLAB R2017a.

Joel Bay
Joel Bay on 4 Mar 2020
None of these other methods seem to work anymore, but what you can do is:
And then you'll have a nicely copy and pasteable table in your work directory.
  1 Comment
Julian on 4 Mar 2020
Thanks for your comment!
Yes, I certainly use writetable and readtable - but that solution is not copy & paste and creates intermediary files....

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Rafid Bendimerad
Rafid Bendimerad on 31 Mar 2020
Edited: Rafid Bendimerad on 31 Mar 2020
Here are the steps:
1- Copy your array from Matlab.
2- Paste your array in Excel.
3- Select your array in Excel.
4- type: Ctrl + F (Press the button Ctrl and the button F simultaneously).
5- A window will appear (Find - Replace). Choose Replace.
6- Then,
Find what: .
Replace with: ,
(Look to the picture below)
It's Done.
Basically, we just replace the period (.) by a coma (,). And this is bacause Matlab uses "periods" while Excel uses "comas". For example: Matlab writes: 5.5 while Excel writes 5,5.
Got it ?
Good Luck.
  1 Comment
Steven Lord
Steven Lord on 31 Mar 2020
Different countries use different decimal separators. I know Microsoft Excel has an option to specify the decimal and thousands separators. MATLAB has a preference to control what is used when exporting data via the clipboard.

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