How to Cut, Copy and Paste on a Mac

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How to Cut, Copy and Paste on a Mac
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You can cut and paste on a Mac computer to move content from one application to another. You can generally do this using your mouse or touchpad or by using keyboard shortcuts. Remember that it can sometimes be risky to copy and paste sensitive information into the clipboard since it can be accessed by any program that has access to your computer's clipboard.

Cut, Copy and Paste

On most modern computer systems, including Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS and the smart phone operating systems iOS and Android, you can use standard operations called cut, copy and paste to move data from one place to another.

The three operations use what's generally called a computer's system clipboard to store data and allow it to be moved from one place to another. The copy operation moves selected information into the clipboard, generally overwriting whatever information is already there. The cut operation is similar, but it also deletes the information from its original location. Once you have cut or copied information to the clipboard, you can position the cursor in a new place in the same or a different program and use the paste operation to insert the data.

Cut, Copy and Paste on a Mac

The principle is the same between most modern programs and operating systems. On a Mac, you can also cut, copy and paste files from one folder or drive to another using the Mac Finder program.

In most Mac programs, including finder, you can use your mouse or trackpad to click and select the content you want to cut or copy. Then, use the "Edit" menu in the program to select copy or cut depending on whether you want to simply copy the material to the clipboard or also delete it. Switch to the program or window where you want to paste the data and use its "Edit" menu to find the paste command and insert the information. Note that if you have additional data highlighted in the program when you paste, it will often be overwritten by what you paste.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts on Macs

On a Mac, you can use keyboard shortcuts to copy, cut and paste selected data without having to move your mouse to the "Edit" menu. Generally, you can use the Mac keyboard key "Command" and specific letters to cut and paste. In most programs, hold down the "Command" key and press the C key to copy, hold down Command and press X to cut and hold down "Command" and press V to paste.

If these commands don't work on a particular program, check the "Edit" menu to see if other keyboard shortcuts are indicated next to the desired command or read the program's documentation to see if special rules apply. Note that some command line tools, such as the text editing programs Emacs and Vim, predate the modern copy and paste commands and use their own internal clipboards and keyboard shortcuts to manipulate them.

Similar keyboard shortcuts also apply on other desktop and laptop operating systems. If you're using Microsoft Windows, you usually simply want to replace the "Command" key with the "Control" key, which is often abbreviated "Ctrl." Linux systems also typically use the "Control" key to form these keyboard shortcuts.

The Clipboard and Security

Often, many programs on your computer have access to the keyboard. If your system is running software you're not sure you trust, you may want to be careful about what information you copy and paste to limit what applications have access to it.

For example, you might want to avoid copying and pasting passwords or credit card numbers on systems you're not sure that you can trust.