Whether I’m working with piles of unruly data in a spreadsheet, building a technical document, or writing for the web, at some point in the process, I usually need to smelt all the gunk and funk out of a block of data leaving pure, plain text behind.

I’ve developed all sorts of inelegant hacks for doing this on various operating systems over the years – often with more steps than I cared for.

Given my persistent need for clean text, I was pretty excited to find CleanHaven recently via Mac AppStorm. CleanHaven offers all kinds of options for cleaning, sorting, and manipulating text. Remarkably, it costs nothing. There are versions for Mac, Windows, and Linux. (I’ve only used the Mac version so far.)

Instead of foolishly attempting to list everything CleanHaven can do for you, I thought I would share a common use case I’ve uncovered: cleaning return-laden text from emails.

For lots more on CleanHaven, including quick video tutorials, follow the links above.

Using CleanHaven to tidy up text copied from email

Often, I want to store ideas that pop out when I write emails. So I copy my ramblings and paste them somewhere (usually Notational Velocity). Then, the anti-fun begins. I end up spending a minute or two deleting all the carriage returns at the end of each line and taking out other garbage that email clients seem happy to leave behind.

Here’s how I've outsourced this cleanup process to CleanHaven in five easy installments of my time. (It's much faster than a five-step list would imply).

Step 1. Paste text from email into CleanHaven.

Step 2. On the Replace tab, replace all carriage returns with a single space. (If you simply scrub all carriage returns without replacing with a space, you’ll see words collide like “twowords” because they were really two«CR»words in the text.)

Clicking Clean gives you this:

Step 3. Click Source on the Cleaned Results window to place the results in the main CleanHaven window for more cleaning.

Step 4. On the Convert tab, check Remove and select Excess Spaces. Clean. This rids your text of any extra spaces you may have inserted in step 2.

Step 5. Copy final results to clipboard, and paste wherever you like.

If you do this a lot, this process is merely a few clicks long. Way faster than doing it by hand.

If you’ve found an innovative use for CleanHaven or have other text-cleaning tricks to share, do that in the comments.