How to Copy and Paste on Mac: A Comprehensive Guide

how to copy and paste on Mac
How to copy and paste on Mac

Copying, pasting, and cutting content is an essential part of using any computer. On a Mac, there are a few different ways to copy, paste, and cut content – whether it’s text, images, files, or folders. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to copy and paste on Mac in 2024.

How to Copy and Paste on Mac with Keyboard Shortcuts

The fastest way to copy, paste, and cut on a Mac is by using keyboard shortcuts. Here are the most common copy/paste keyboard shortcuts:

  • Copy: Command + C
  • Paste: Command + V
  • Cut: Command + X

These keyboard shortcuts work for copying and pasting text, images, files, and folders. To use them:

  1. Select the item(s) you want to copy/cut. This could be some text, a file/folder, an image, etc.
  2. Press the keyboard shortcut for a copy (Command + C) or cut (Command + X). This will save the selected item(s) to your clipboard.
  3. Place your cursor where you want to paste the item(s).
  4. Press Command + V to paste the item(s) from your clipboard.

That’s all there is to the basic copy/paste keyboard shortcuts on Mac! Here are a few more advanced copy/paste tips:

  • To paste while maintaining the original formatting, use Command + Option + Shift + V after copying.
  • To copy just the formatting of text (without the text itself), use Command + Option + C.
  • You can paste previously copied items again without having to re-copy by pressing Command + V multiple times.

Mastering these basic copy/paste/cut keyboard shortcuts will make you much more efficient when working on your Mac.

Copying and Pasting with the Menu Bar

If you prefer not to use keyboard shortcuts, you can also copy and paste using the menu bar at the top of the screen. Here’s how:

  1. Select the item(s) you want to copy.
  2. Go to Edit > Copy in the menu bar. This copies the item(s) to your clipboard.
  3. Place your cursor where you want to paste.
  4. Go to Edit > Paste in the menu bar. This pastes the item(s) from your clipboard.

Similarly, to cut an item using the menu bar:

  1. Select the item(s) you want to cut.
  2. Go to Edit > Cut in the menu bar. This removes the item(s) from their original location and saves them to your clipboard.
  3. Paste the cut item(s) with Edit > Paste.

While keyboard shortcuts are faster, the menu bar works great if you’re just getting started with copy/pasting on Mac.

Copying and Moving Files/Folders on Mac

In addition to text and images, you can also use copy/paste to duplicate files and folders:

  1. Select the file/folder you want to copy.
  2. Go to Edit > Copy “file name” in the Finder menu bar. This copies the file/folder.
  3. Open the location where you want to paste the copy.
  4. Go to Edit > Paste Item in the Finder menu bar.

To move a file/folder instead of copying:

  1. Select the file/folder you want to move.
  2. Go to Edit > Cut “file name” in the Finder menu bar. This cuts the file/folder and saves it to your clipboard.
  3. Open the location where you want to move the file/folder.
  4. Go to Edit > Paste Item in the Finder menu bar. The file/folder will move.

Using copy/paste is a quick way to duplicate or rearrange files and folders on your Mac.

Copying and Pasting Multiple Items

The Mac clipboard can only hold one item at a time. To copy multiple items at once, you’ll need a third-party clipboard manager like Paste.

With Paste, you can:

  • Copy multiple text snippets, images, links, files, etc. simultaneously.
  • Access your clipboard history to paste older copied items again.
  • Sync clipboard items between devices logged into the same Paste account.
  • Share clipboard items with others.

Using a clipboard manager like Paste makes copying and pasting multiple items much simpler.

Copying Text from Images/PDFs

You can copy text from an image or PDF document on your Mac using the Preview app:

  1. Open the image or PDF in the Preview app.
  2. Select the text area you want to copy.
  3. Press Command + C to copy the selected text.
  4. Paste the copied text with Command + V.

Apps like TextSniper also make copying text from images, PDFs, and even videos easy. TextSniper uses OCR technology to extract text from any area of your screen.

Copying and Pasting Between Apple Devices

With Universal Clipboard, you can copy on one Apple device and paste on another nearby device. To use it:

  1. Enable Handoff on both devices in System Preferences.
  2. Make sure both devices are logged into the same iCloud account.
  3. Keep the devices close to each other with Bluetooth and WiFi enabled.

Now copy an item on one device, and it will immediately be available to paste on the other device for about 2 minutes. Universal Clipboard works between Mac, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

An app like Paste also lets you sync clipboard items between Apple devices logged into the same account.

Tips for Fixing Copy/Paste Issues on Mac

If copy/paste stops working on your Mac, try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Restart your Mac to refresh all system processes.
  • Use Activity Monitor to force quit the “pboard” process, then relaunch.
  • Type “killall pboard” in Terminal to restart the clipboard process.
  • Make sure you don’t have any apps running that could be intercepting your copy/paste shortcuts.
  • Try copying/pasting between different apps to see if the issue is app-specific.
  • Update to the latest version of macOS if you’re experiencing general copy/paste issues.

Following these troubleshooting steps should get copy/paste working again in case of any glitches.

Advanced Copy and Pasting Techniques on Mac

Here are some more advanced copy-and-paste tips and tricks for Mac:

  • Keyboard shortcuts like Command + A (select all) and Command + Shift + arrow keys (select sections of text) make copying faster.
  • When pasting text, Control + Option + Shift + V pastes while removing the original formatting.
  • You can press Command + V repeatedly to paste previously copied items.
  • Option + Command + V pastes and matches the formatting of the surrounding text.
  • To copy styling only, copy text, then paste with Option + Command + V on target text.
  • Use Services like Make Upper Case or Add Prefix in the context menu to modify copied text.
  • Try third-party clipboard managers like Paste and Copy’em Paste Pro for more advanced clipboards.
  • Apps like Popclip and TextExpander can improve your copy/paste workflow.

Take your Mac copy/paste skills to the next level with these pro tips!


This guide covered everything from basic copy/paste shortcuts to advanced copy-pasting techniques on Mac. Here are some key things to remember:

  • Master keyboard shortcuts like Command + C, Command + V, and Command + X for fast copying and pasting.
  • Use the Edit menu to copy/paste if you prefer menu clicks over shortcuts.
  • Move files or folders by cutting and pasting with the Finder menu bar.
  • Employ clipboard managers to copy/paste multiple items at once.
  • Leverage Universal Clipboard or apps like Paste to copy/paste between Apple devices.
  • Try OCR apps to extract text from images and PDFs.
  • Troubleshoot issues with copy/paste using Activity Monitor and Terminal commands.
  • Take advantage of macOS Services and pro tips to truly master copy and pasting on a Mac.

With these copy, paste, and cut skills, you’ll be able to quickly and efficiently manage content on any Mac in 2024 and beyond!

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