How to copy and paste

Jon Martindale

Copy and paste are among the most common — and overlooked — commands found in any operating system, whether it be Windows or MacOS. The function is used to move text in an instant. But not everyone knows how to use these features. Thankfully, there are several easy methods for doing so using either using your mouse, trackpad, or other peripherals.

Here’s the rundown on copy and paste.

How to copy and paste in Windows 10

Although Windows PCs have a unifying theme when it comes to copy and pasting, there are a few different ways to do it. Depending on the software, you can use the mouse, the keyboard, the menu bar, or a combination of all three to get the job done.

While you can make an argument that some methods are faster than others, the one you choose will largely be down to personal preference, so we’ll break down each one in turn and you can then pick which is right for you.

Quick tips:

  • Right-clicking a selected item will usually bring up a menu with the option to Copy. Right-clicking an empty space will usually bring up a menu with the option to Paste.
  • The keyboard command for Copy is Ctrl+C, and the keyboard command for Paste is Ctrl+V.

Method 1: Using the mouse

Step 1: Properly selecting the content you wish to reproduce is the first step when copying and pasting. If you’re looking to copy an image, right-click it and select Copy image to save a duplicate to the clipboard. Then skip to Step 3.

For text, left-click and drag your mouse cursor over the portion of the document or browser window you wish to highlight. For folders and other items, simply right-click the item once or, alternatively, left-click and drag a selection box around multiple files.

If you want to bring the keyboard in too, you can hold Ctrl and click multiple files, or click the first item in a list while holding Shift and then click the final item you want to copy.

Image copy grumpy cat

Step 2: Once the content you wish to copy is highlighted, right-click while hovering over any portion of the chosen content and select Copy from the resulting drop-down menu.

Text copy paste

Step 3: Once you’ve copied your chosen image, text, or file, place your cursor in the location you wish to copy it to. Then right-click, and select Paste from the resulting drop-down menu.

Method 2: Using keyboard commands

Step 1: To highlight text with a keyboard, use the arrow keys to navigate your blinking cursor to the sentence or paragraph you wish to copy and press the Shift key. Continue to move the cursor over the text you want to duplicate and a selection box — usually blue — will appear around it. Stop when you have highlighted everything you want.

For files and folders, you can use the Tab key to move between sections of the folder you’re currently in. When a folder is highlighted, hold down the Shift key and use the arrow keys to cover all the ones you wish to copy.

Images are a little more difficult, but use the same principle as above. Using a combination of the Tab and arrow keys, navigate to the image you wish to select. Press and hold the Shift key and move your selection over it to highlight it.

Hightlight example keyboard commands

Step 2: Once your file, text, or image is highlighted, hold down the Ctrl key and press the C key to copy it.

Though the keyboard command for copying is fairly universal, some software-specific macro commands or shortcuts may interfere with Windows’ native keyboard commands. If in doubt regarding the proper key combination, look up the command functions from directly within the application’s help menu or with a web search.

Step 3: Once the content you want is copied, navigate to where you want to put it, and hold down the CTRL key once again. This time though, press the V key. Your image, text, or folder should now be pasted right where you want it.

Method 3: Using the menu bar

Step 1: Many applications have their own menu system to enable copy and pasting, but highlighting what you want to copy will still require you to use the mouse or keyboard. Use the methods described above for highlighting what you wish to copy.

Step 2: Once you’ve highlighted your chosen content, look to the top menu bar in your application or folder and click the Edit or Home button menu and select Copy from the resulting drop-down menu.

Highlight example

If you can’t spot that particular command, look for the classic overlaid paper symbol which is used in many applications to denote the copy function.

Step 3: Once you’ve copied what it is you want to duplicate, head to that same drop-down menu and select Paste.

How to copy and paste in MacOS

Although Windows and MacOS do feel like the different operating systems that they are, they perform copying and pasting in a similar fashion. That means it’s just as easy, whether you’re using the mouse, keyboard, or in-app menus.

Quick tips:

  • Command+C will copy a highlighted item.
  • Command+V will paste a copied item.

Method 1: Using the mouse

Step 1: If you’re looking to copy text with your Apple mouse — Magic or not — click and drag the cursor over the portion of the document or web page you wish to highlight. For files and folders, simply click the item once. Alternatively, click and drag a selection box around multiple files.

To highlight an image easily, you’ll need to bring the keyboard in to play too. Hold the Control key and click on the image and select Copy Image to duplicate and save it to your clipboard. Then skip to Step 3.

Step 2: Once you’ve highlighted what you want to copy, right-click while hovering over any portion of the chosen content and select Copy from the resulting drop-down menu.

Text copy paste example

Step 3: Once everything you want is copied, place your cursor in the location you wish to paste the content, hold Control and click, then select Paste from the resulting drop-down menu.

Method 2: Using keyboard commands

Step 1: Although it’s a little more limited on MacOS than Windows, you can use the Tab key to jump between text boxes for keyboard selection. When you’ve made it to the section you wish to highlight, hold the shift key and use the arrow keys to highlight the text you want to copy.

Alternatively, use the mouse to put the pointer where you want it and then use the above method. Files and folders can be selected in much the same way.

For images, using the mouse is going to be your best bet for highlighting.

Step 2: Once everything is selected, hold down the Command key and press C to copy.

Hightlight example text

Though that particular shortcut is fairly universal, some program-specific macro commands or shortcuts may interfere with MacOS’ native keyboard commands. If in doubt regarding the proper key combination, look up the command functions from directly within the application’s help menu or through a web search.

Step 3: Once everything you want is copied, place your cursor in the location you wish to paste the content, hold down the Command key and press the V key to paste it in.

Method 3: Using the menu bar

Step 1: Highlighting is not something most applications do by themselves, so your best bet is to highlight the text, image, files, or folders using one of the methods mentioned above.

Step 2: Once you’ve highlighted what you want, click the gear icon or Edit menu — it may differ slightly depending on the application — from within the main toolbar and select the Copy command from the resulting drop-down menu.

Hightlight example text
Mac OS X copy content

Step 3: Once copied, select where you want the content to be duplicated, then click the gear icon or Edit menu once again, and select Paste from the drop-down menu.