How to Cut, Copy, and Paste on a Mac

Learn how to put stuff where you want it

What to Know

  • Select the text or folder you wish to cut or copy, then press Command+C to copy or Command+X to cut.
  • To paste the text or folder you cut or copied, place the cursor where you want it to go and press Command+V.
  • You can copy an image by hovering the cursor over it, pressing Control, then selecting Copy Image.

This article explains how to use the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands on a Mac. These instructions were created for macOS Catalina (10.15) but apply to most earlier versions of macOS and Mac OS X. Some older versions of the operating system may have a slightly different interface.

How to Copy, Cut, or Paste Text

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

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

    If you're using the keyboard, move the 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'll see a colored box around the selected content.

    Text highlighted in Word on a Mac

    In Microsoft Word, there are detailed selection options you can adjust to make selecting easier.

  2. To copy the highlighted 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.
    Word document on a Mac with the Cut and Copy commands highlighted
  3. To paste the text you just copied or cut, place the cursor in an editable area, like a text box or a document, and use one of the following methods:

    • On the keyboard, press Command+V.
    • From the menu bar, select Edit > Paste.
    Word on a Mac with the Paste command highlighted

    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.

Keyboard Shortcuts That Help With Copy and Paste

Other keyboard shortcuts are especially helpful when using copy-and-paste commands:

  • Command+A (Select All). This keyboard shortcut selects 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 an entire document.
  • Command+Z (Undo). Use the Undo command to undo the last action, for example, if you pasted text in the wrong location.

How to Cut, Copy, or Paste an Image

If you can select content by dragging the cursor over it, you can copy it. Using this technique, you can copy 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.

Web page image with "Copy Image" highlighted

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.

Mac web page image with "Copy Image Address" highlighted

You can't use the Cut command in PDFs, but copying text and images from a PDF works well.

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. However, 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, use the Copy command.

To duplicate files within Finder, complete the following steps:

  1. Select one or more folders or files.

    Mac Finder with files and folders highlighted
  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.

    Mac Finder with Duplicate highlighted

    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 a web browser, copy text, an image, or an element from a web page. Then, switch to the destination app, place the 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 its formatting. When you paste the text, the formatting comes with it.

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 or Paste and Match Formatting command. This command adjusts the formatting to match the destination file's formatting. This way, the pasted content will fit seamlessly into the rest of your document.

When you've selected and cut or copied the text in your source document, go to the destination document and select Edit > Paste and Match Style or Paste and Match Formatting, 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 to check the application's Edit menu.

Paste and Match Formatting highlighted in Word for Mac
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