How to Copy and Paste on a MacBook
Ask any laptop user what keyboard shortcuts they could hardly survive without and chances are you will hear "copy and paste" or “copy-paste” in response. And it's not surprising. Copy and paste are probably the two best computer functions ever invented.
Not only do they save us time, but they also make it super-easy to transfer information across apps, documents, and websites.
In this article, we explain how to copy and paste on any desktop Mac or a MacBook. In fact, macOS provides a few ways to do this:
Now let's review them all and discuss the pros and cons of each.
How do you copy and paste using a keyboard on a Mac
One of the most common ways to copy and paste on a Mac is to use keyboard shortcuts. Basically, it's the Apple equivalent to the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V shortcuts that Windows PC users rely on.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Select the file or link you want to copy on your Mac
- To select a part of the text, hold left-click while dragging your cursor over the text to highlight the area you need.
- To select a file, simply left-click on it once.
2. Once you’ve highlighted what you need to copy, press the Command and C keys (Command (⌘) + C) simultaneously on your keyboard
3. Now navigate to the file/folder where you want the copied information to be pasted, and press the Command (⌘) and V keys (Command (⌘) + V) at the same time.
Bonus tip: If you need to select and copy the entire text or all files in a Mac folder, press the Command and A keys (Command (⌘) + A) together. There's no need to drag your cursor around forever to select!
These simple commands should be working universally, whether you use a MacBook or a desktop Mac. If the trick doesn’t work out, there might be problems with the keys you’re pressing. Learn how to fix a Mac keyboard in our guide.
How to copy and paste with a mouse
The second way to copy and paste on a Mac requires a mouse. It might feel more comfortable as you’ll be able to do the whole thing with only one hand.
Here's how to copy and paste a picture, text, or other files on a Mac:
1. Select the something you want to copy on Mac by left-clicking it once or holding the left-click while moving the cursor over the file/text you want to select
2. Right-click (or hold Control, then click the mouse button) on the selected item/items to open a contextual menu
3. Find and click the Copy option on the contextual menu
4. Go where you want the copied item to be pasted and right-click (or hold Control, then click the mouse button) on any plain area to open the contextual menu again
5. Find and click Paste Item
6. Wait a few seconds, then that’s it, your file/files should now be copied to the new location
If you’re using Apple’s Magic Mouse but it doesn’t do what’s described above, check out this article on fixing Magic Mouse issues.
How to copy and paste using a trackpad
If you have a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and don't have a physical mouse, you still can copy and paste with a trackpad (also called a touchpad). All you need to know is how to right-click on a Mac without a mouse.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Select the item you would like to copy
- Click or tap on your touchpad with two fingers to perform a right-click of the mouse
- From the contextual menu, find and click the Copy option
- Open the window where you need the copied file to be pasted
- Click or tap on the touchpad with two fingers again
- Find and click the Paste Item option in the contextual menu
Bonus tip: There's another little-known way to perform a right-click on a Mac without a physical mouse. Simply highlight the text or file you want to copy, then press and hold the Control key. While holding the Control key, click on the highlighted text or file. The contextual menu will show up the same way it would in response to a real right-click on a mouse.
How to copy and paste on a Mac with menus
If for some reason you can’t copy-paste on a Mac using keyboard shortcuts or a mouse, there's one more way to accomplish your copying and pasting goals.
macOS allows you to copy-paste using the Edit functions in the menu bar of Finder or other relevant apps (you will find the Edit function in menu bars of all apps that support copying and pasting).
Here's how to do this:
1. Select the text or file you want to copy on your Mac.
2. To select a part of the text, click and drag your cursor to highlight what you need to copy. To select a file, simply left-click on it once
3. Go to the menu bar at the top and click Edit. In the drop-down menu, find and click Copy
4. Navigate to the file, folder, or tab where you want the copied item to be pasted
5. Go to the menu bar at the top of your screen and click Paste
Now you know the three ways to copy and paste. But if none of them seems to work, we’ll not stop at it. Here’s a guide that will help you fix copy and paste issues on a Mac.
How to paste and match a style
When you copy and paste text between different apps or files, you might notice that the pasted information looks strange. Different formatting and styles are to blame, but there's a way to fix it.
Instead of clicking the regular paste option in the Edit menu, click Paste and Match Style or use Command (⌘) + Shift + V.
This way the copied text will mimic the style of the file or app you're pasting it to and it will no longer look inappropriate.
How to copy and paste between devices
Yes, you can do it easily! Since the launch of Universal Clipboard with macOS Sierra, it became possible to copy files on your Mac and paste it on your iPhone or vice versa.
Here are the requirements:
1. Both devices must pass the system requirements for continuity
2. Both devices must be signed into the same iCloud
3. Both devices must have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi switched on
4. For the macOS device. Go to System Preferences → General and check the box next to Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices
5. For the iOS device. Go to Settings → General → Handoff and make sure to activate Handoff (green slide)
Once you make sure all the settings are ok, now it’s time to copy and paste between devices. To do so:
- Highlight a file, link, or text you want to copy on your iPhone
- Choose to copy this file
- Open a document on your Mac and press Command (⌘) + V
- Wait a few seconds (3 seconds for text and 10+ seconds for images)
That’s it, now your item should appear on your Mac. You can copy and paste from a Mac to an iPhone or an iPad in a similar way.
How to cut and paste on a Mac
Copy and Cut functions are similar, as they both save the text, file, link, etc to the pasteboard.
However, the difference between Copy and Cut is:
- Copy makes a duplicate of the item leaving one copy in the original location and creating a second copy at the destination
- Cut moves the original item from one place to another
Here’s how to cut and paste on a Mac:
- Highlight the file you want to cut
- Cut the file by pressing Command (⌘) + X keys
- Navigate to the folder you want to paste the file and press Command (⌘) + V
That’s it, now you successfully moved the original file to its new location.