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An Ultimate Guide to Copying and Pasting on a Mac

This article teaches you how to copy and paste, or “paste” as the Mac calls it, text on your Mac. While the preferred way is via the built-in menu bar, you can also copy and paste using your Mac’s trackpad or keyboard.

With the menu bar

Go to the text or file you want

that you want to copy. You can copy text to paste it back into another document or field. You can also copy one or more files to paste them somewhere else on your computer.

Select the text or file.

Click and hover over the text to highlight it. You can select a file by clicking on it once. If you want to select multiple files at once, hold down ⌘ Command while clicking each file.

Click on the top left of the menu bar

Edit A drop-down menu will appear.

Click on this menu

Copy This copies the selected text or files to your Mac’s clipboard. If you’re copying a single file, you’ll see the name of the file next to Copy. You won’t see the text or copies of the file here.

Go to where you want to paste the text or file.

You can paste the text into any text field or document, while files can be pasted into most folders on your computer. If you’re pasting text into a text box, first click inside the text box.

Click in the menu bar

Edit The drop-down menu reappears.

Click in this menu

Paste You should now see the text or file(s) in this location. If you copied multiple files, click Paste Objects here. If you copied a single file, click Paste [filename] e.g. Paste “Screenshot 1” from the drop-down menu.

With the trackpad

Consider using keyboard shortcuts instead.

You can use your Mac’s keyboard to open a context menu and copy and paste things: Hold Control while clicking an item and a context menu with Copy and Paste options will appear. If you press ⌘ Command + C while an item is selected, it will be copied. If you press ⌘ Command + V after copying something, it will be pasted.

Open the Apple menu

Click on the Apple logo in the top left. A drop-down menu will appear.

Click in this menu

System Preferences… The System Preferences window opens.

Click at the top of System Preferences

Trackpad A pop-up will appear.

Click the tab at the top of the window

Point & Click

Check the “Secondary click” box.

You’ll find this on the left side of the window. Checking this box will enable the two-finger click feature on your Mac’s trackpad. If there is a checkmark here, a secondary click is already enabled.

Find the text or object that you want to copy.

Go to the document or folder that contains the content or document you want.

Highlight the text before copying.

You have to click and hover over the text to highlight it. If you want to copy multiple files, hold down ⌘ Command while clicking each file you want to copy.

Click on the desired object with two fingers.

Hover the cursor over an item, then press the trackpad with two fingers to open a context menu. If you have marked several files, you only have to make the two-finger click on one of the marked files.

Click in the drop-down menu

Copy This copies the selected items to your Mac’s clipboard. You won’t see the duplicates at this point. If you’re copying a single file, you’ll see the name of the file next to Copy.

Go to where you want to paste the text or file.

You can paste the text into any text field or document, and files into most folders on your computer.

Click in a text field or on an empty space with two fingers.

A drop-down menu will appear.

Click on the option in this menu

Insert You should now see the object at this point. If you copied multiple files, click Paste Objects here. If you copied a single file, click Paste [filename] e.g. Paste “Screenshot 1” from the drop-down menu.

Tips

If you have a Mac with a mouse, such as an iMac, right-clicking the mouse opens a context menu where you’ll find Copy and Paste options. With the “Cut” function you can delete text from a document or text field after copying it to the clipboard. Cut is found in the Edit drop-down menu, but you can also press Command + X to cut the selected text.

Warnings

If you copy new text or a new file before pasting the last copied somewhere, the last copied information will be overwritten. This can be disastrous when copying sensitive data between documents and folders. Some text is not visible in certain contexts. For example, if you copy a text message with an emoji in it from the Messages app on your Mac and paste it into a text field on Facebook or similar, some of the emoji may not appear.

About the Author

Eddie Miller

Eddie is an Associate Editor in London, UK. He coordinates client content and sponsored articles. Eddie has two Masters in language and spent half his life in the teaching field. He now owns an Amazon business and runs a wooden DIY workshop.