How to Cut, Copy, and Paste on a Mac

Put stuff where you want it!

Photograph: person uses a large brush to apply paste to a roll of paper.

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Cut, copy, and paste commands allow you to duplicate and move content on your Mac. With clever use of these commands, you can increase productivity dramatically. Here's how to copy and paste on Mac.

How to Copy and Paste on Mac

In general, copying and pasting works as described below:

  1. Hold down your left mouse button while dragging your mouse along the content you want to copy. This will create a colored selection box highlighting the selected content.

  2. With your selection made, right-click or use the Edit menu to use the copy or cut command. However, it's best to use the keyboard shortcuts:

    • Command+X: Cut
    • Command+C: Copy
  3. To paste, place your cursor into an editable area, like a text box or document, and execute the paste command: Command+V. You can only paste in places you have permission to edit.

There are also some other keyboard shortcuts that mix especially well with the copy and paste commands:

  • Command+A: Select all text or items within the current view, based on your selection or cursor position. Helpful when you need to copy a whole document.
  • Command+Z: Undo the last action, such as an incorrect paste placement.

How to Copy and Paste Text on Mac

Copying and cutting text are essentially the same process, but with the first command switched as appropriate.

  1. Select the text you want to copy by holding down the left mouse button and dragging over your selection. If you have a MacBook Pro with a trackpad, click with one finger and drag to make a selection.

  2. Copy the text with the Command+C keyboard shortcut.

  3. Move your cursor to where you want the copied text to appear. Make sure to click the location to place your cursor; just hovering won't work.

  4. Press Command+V to paste the text. This will place the clipboard content in front of your cursor, pushing other text out of the way, if necessary.

Text can appear in many places, and it's not always easy to select. For example, to copy the contents of a cell in Excel, the easiest method is to select the cell (not the text) and copy it. In Word, there are detailed selection options you can adjust to make selecting easier. And in PDFs, you can't use the cut command, but copying text and images from a PDF works great.

How to Copy and Paste a Picture on a Mac

If you can select content by dragging your cursor over it, you can copy it. Even hard-to-select objects, such as web images, can be copied.

Right-click the image, then select Copy Image (or similar) from the context menu. The image is now on your clipboard, and you can paste it into any field that accepts images.

You can also copy the URL of an image by selecting Copy Image Address (or similar) from the context menu.

How to Copy and Paste Files and Folders on Mac

You can copy files within Finder for easy backup and duplication.

  1. Select one or more folders or files.

  2. Copy these files with the appropriate keyboard shortcuts. This places the full files on your clipboard.

  3. Navigate to an appropriate location, such as another Finder window, and paste the files.

For faster copying, hold down Option and drag the file to a new location. That will automatically duplicate the file, even in the same folder.

If you want to move the files instead of duplicating them, press Command+Option+V. This will delete the files from their original location when they're pasted to the new location.

How to Copy and Paste Across Apps on Mac

Copy and paste works across apps as well. You can make a selection in one app, copy it, then paste it into a different app. Because the clipboard is global, the same clipboard content is available anywhere on your Mac.

One of the most common uses of copy and paste it sharing content from the web. Copy the selected text, image, or element from your web browser, then switch to the destination app and place your cursor where you want the content to appear. Paste the content, and it will appear as normal.

Copy and paste across apps requires the destination app is capable of accepting the copied content. For example, if you copy this sentence, switch to Finder, then paste, nothing will happen, because Finder has nowhere to put the text.

Resolving Formatting Problems

Pasting between apps with text formatting can be frustrating. Pasting from a website into a Word document, for example, can result in odd-looking text. This happens because the copy and cut commands grab both the selected text and the formatting of that text. When you paste that text, the formatting comes with it.

Screenshot showing the Paste and Match Style command selected in macOS TextEdit app
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The Paste and Match Style option adjusts the formatting to match the location you're pasting to. That way, your pasted content will fit in seamlessly with the rest of your document.

Go to Edit > Paste and Match Style to use it, or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Option+Command+V. Not every app has a Paste and Match Style option, and some apps use a different keyboard shortcut, so check the Edit menu to be sure.