How to Copy and Paste Anywhere
Copying and pasting is a basic function of every operating system, so it’s important that you know how to use it. Even if you’re familiar with one method of copying and pasting, you might not know how to do it on another platform.
Let’s look at how to copy and paste everywhere—we’ll look at how to do this on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iPhone/iPad.
Jump to a section:
- Copy and Paste Basics
- How to Copy and Paste in Windows
- How to Copy and Paste on a Mac
- How to Copy and Paste in Linux
- How to Copy and Paste in Android
- How to Copy and Paste on iPhone and iPad
Copy and Paste Basics
Before we dive into how to copy and paste on each platform, we should discuss a few points about the function that apply everywhere.
First, copying and pasting uses an invisible part of the operating system known as the clipboard. This is a small storage space that can hold one item at a time—it works with text as well as images and even files.
When you copy an item, you take the text or other content and duplicate it onto the clipboard. The original item that you copied stays unchanged in its current position. Later, the paste operation takes whatever is on the clipboard and inserts it at your current location.
There’s another related operation: cut. Cutting acts like copying, except that it removes the current text, file, or other content from its position to put it on the clipboard. This only works in text blocks where you can edit text; you can’t cut text from an online article, for example.
Pasting doesn’t delete the contents of the clipboard. If you don’t overwrite its contents, you can paste the same item multiple times. Just keep in mind that the clipboard can only hold one item at a time. As soon as you copy or cut something else, the original clipboard contents are lost.
Now, let’s look at how to copy and paste on your computer and phone.
How to Copy and Paste in Windows
Like most desktop OSes, Windows has several ways to copy and paste. Some are faster than others, but we’ll cover each of them so you can try them all.
You’ll need to select the item you want to copy before doing so. To select the text, use your mouse to click and drag over something to highlight it. If you want to select everything (such as an entire webpage or document), use Ctrl + A to highlight everything easily.
To select multiple items in File Explorer or similar, click and drag your mouse around multiple items or hold Ctrl while clicking them to select more than one.
Copy and Paste in Windows With the Keyboard
The fastest way to copy and paste is by using keyboard shortcuts. Use Ctrl + C to copy something, then Ctrl + V to paste. If you want to cut instead of copying, use Ctrl + X.
To paste the copied text, use the arrow keys or mouse to put the cursor where you want to insert the copied item and press Ctrl + V.
This works to copy highlighted text (as described above) as well as files in File Explorer, bits of media in apps like photo and video editors, and most other apps.
The main exception is that you can’t copy images in most browsers using this shortcut, unless you have the image open at its direct URL.
Copy and Paste Using Menus
If you don’t like using the keyboard, you can usually copy and paste through the right-click menu. Right-click on the highlighted text, an image, a file, or similar and you should see a Copy option on the menu (as well as Cut, if applicable). If you don’t see these options on a website, keep in mind that some sites disable them.
To paste that content, put your cursor where you’d like to insert it, right click, and hit Paste. Some apps have a Paste without formatting option if you want to paste in plain text.
Finally, most Windows apps have Copy and Paste buttons on the Edit menu at the top toolbar as well. You can use these as a fallback if other methods aren’t convenient.
How to Copy and Paste on a Mac
Copying and pasting on macOS is very similar to how it works on Windows. We’ll go over the basics here; be sure to read our full guide to Mac copy and paste for more info.
Copy and Paste on macOS With the Keyboard
On a Mac, Cmd + C is the keyboard shortcut for copying, while Cmd + V is the shortcut to paste. Use them on the highlighted text, files in Finder, or elements on webpages as needed.
On modern versions of macOS, the Cmd + X shortcut works to cut text, objects in documents, and similar. However, it won’t work for cutting files or folders in Finder. For that, you must use Cmd + C to copy a file, then hit Cmd + Option + V to simulate a cut and paste action.
Copy and Paste on Mac Using Menus
If you don’t like keyboard shortcuts, you’ll find the familiar Copy and Paste menu actions on the right-click context menu in most apps. They’re also found on the Edit menu at the top of your Mac’s display.
Note that in Finder, you won’t see a Cut option in the context menu by default. Copy something, then hold the Option key when pasting and you’ll see Move Item Here.
How to Copy and Paste in Linux
Because Linux distros can vary, we’ll illustrate how to copy and paste in Linux using Ubuntu since it’s so popular.
Like other desktop operating systems, copying and pasting in Linux is easiest with keyboard shortcuts. Use Ctrl + C to copy items, Ctrl + V to paste, and Ctrl + X to cut.
The notable exception to these shortcuts is in the Terminal. Ctrl + C is the command to cancel in a Terminal window, so Linux uses the following copy and paste shortcuts for the Terminal instead:
- Ctrl + Shift + C to copy
- Ctrl + Shift + V to paste
If you don’t want to use the above, right-click on an element to find Copy and Paste commands instead, or check the Edit menu at the top.
How to Copy and Paste in Android
On mobile operating systems, copy and paste is a little more limited since you don’t have as many ways to interact with the system. However, it’s not difficult to learn.
To copy text on Android in most apps, simply press and hold on a bit of text for a moment. You should see handles appear that surround the highlighted word, along with a menu above them.
Use those handles to highlight the text you want to copy, or tap Select All to highlight the entire page or text box. When you’re satisfied, tap Copy from the menu to put the text on your clipboard. If you’ve selected text in a text entry box, such as inside a note-taking app, you’ll see a Cut option as well.
In some apps, long-pressing on text like this won’t show the handles or menu. For example, if you press and hold on an address in Google Maps, it will copy the address to your clipboard for you.
To paste text, navigate to the text entry box where you want to enter the content. Long-press on the space, then choose Paste to insert the contents of your clipboard.
We’ve looked more closely at copying and pasting on Android if you’d like more details and advice.
How to Copy and Paste on iPhone and iPad
Copying and pasting on iPhone is similar to the process on Android. To select text in a text box (such as in the Notes app), double tap a word to select it. Meanwhile, press and hold to select a word that’s not in an editable box, such as on a website.
When you do, handles and a menu will appear. Drag the handles to select the text you want, then tap Copy to put the text on your clipboard (or Cut if applicable).
To paste the text later, press and hold on an empty spot and choose Paste when that menu appears.
As of iOS 13, Apple added gesture-based shortcuts for copying, cutting, and pasting text. You can try these, but we find them awkward compared to using the menus:
- Cut: Use three fingers in a closing-pinch motion two times.
- Copy: Pinch closed with three fingers.
- Paste: Start with three fingers together and spread them open.
You can copy other elements, such as images and text messages, by long-pressing on them and looking for the Copy option.
Use Copy and Paste Everywhere
Copying and pasting saves you lots of time when you use it properly. Now you know how it works on the platforms you use every day!
To go further, you should look into using a clipboard manager. These are third-party apps that let you keep more than one item on the clipboard at a time, pin frequently used items for easy access, and much more. We’ve looked at the best iPhone clipboard managers to get you started.
Read the full article: How to Copy and Paste Anywhere