How to Cut, Copy, and Paste on a Mac

Learn how to put stuff where you want it

Photograph: person uses a large brush to apply paste to a roll of paper.
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Using the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands, you can duplicate and move content on your Mac. By mastering these commands, you can increase your productivity dramatically. Here's how to cut, copy, and paste content, files, and more on your Mac.

These instructions were created for macOS Catalina (10.15) but should apply to most earlier versions of macOS and Mac OS X. Some older versions of the operating system may have slightly different menu or dialog box names.

How to Copy, Cut, or Paste Text

To copy, cut, or paste text, complete the following steps:

  1. If you're using a mouse or trackpad, move your cursor to the beginning of the text you want to copy. Then, click and hold while dragging the cursor along the content you want to copy.

    If you're using your keyboard, move your cursor to the beginning of the text you want to copy. Then, press and hold Shift while using the arrow keys to select the content you want to copy.

    You will see a colored box around the selected content.

    Other keyboard shortcuts are especially helpful with the Copy and Paste commands:

    • Command+A. Select all text or items within the current view, based on your selection or cursor position. The Select All command is helpful when you need to copy a whole document.
    • Command+Z. Use the Undo command to undo the last action, such as when you paste the text in the wrong location.
  2. To copy the text, use one of the following methods:

    • On the keyboard, press Command+C.
    • From the menu bar, select Edit > Copy.

    To cut the text, use one of the following methods:

    • On the keyboard, press Command+X.
    • From the menu bar, select Edit > Cut.
  3. To paste the text you just copied or cut, place your cursor in an editable area, like a text box or a document, and then use one of the following methods:

  • On the keyboard, press Command+V.
  • From the menu bar, select Edit > Paste.

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

How to Cut, Copy, or Paste an Image

If you can select content by dragging your cursor over it, you can copy it. Using this technique, you can copy even hard-to-select objects, such as images on websites.

To copy an image from a web page, hover the cursor over the image you want to copy, press Control, select the image, and then select Copy Image from the context menu. The image is now on your clipboard, and you can paste it using the steps provided in the previous section into any field that accepts images. The process is the same in a document, although in documents you can cut as well as copy images.

You can also copy the URL of an image by hovering the cursor over the image, pressing Control, and then selecting Copy Image Address from the context menu.

How to Cut, Copy, and Paste Files and Folders

You can cut, copy, and paste files and folders in macOS the same way you cut, copy, and paste text and images. But, macOS provides a unique way of reproducing files and folders in Finder called Duplicate.

The Duplicate command creates a copy of the selected items in the same folder as the original. If you want to create copies in another location in Finder, you must use the Copy command.

To duplicate files within Finder, complete the following steps:

  1. Select one or more folders or files.

  2. Press Control, selected the highlighted elements, and then select Duplicate from the context menu. (You can also duplicate the item by selecting File > Duplicate on the menu bar or by pressing Command+D.)

For faster copying, press and hold Option, and then drag the file to a new location. This command automatically duplicates the file, even in the same folder.

If you want to move the selected file or folder instead of duplicating it, press Command+Option+V. This command deletes the files from their original location when they're pasted to the new location.

How to Copy and Paste Across Apps

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

One common use for this functionality is sharing content from the web. In your web browser, copy text, an image, or an element from a web page. Then, switch to the destination app, place your cursor where you want the content to appear, and paste the content.

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

Resolve Formatting Problems

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

Screenshot showing the Paste and Match Style command selected in macOS TextEdit app

When you want to paste rich or formatted text from a source, instead of using the standard Paste command, use the Paste and Match Style command. This command adjusts the formatting to match the formatting of the destination file. That way, the pasted content will fit in seamlessly into the rest of your document.

When you've selected and cut or copy the text in your source document, go to the destination document, and then select Edit > Paste and Match Style or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Option+Command+V. Not every app has a Paste and Match Style command, and some apps use a different keyboard shortcut, so be sure check the Edit menu.