How to Cut, Copy and Paste on a Mac

By David Weedmark

Use menu options and keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste in Mac OS X., as well as clearing the clipboard and viewing clipboard contents.

Things You'll Need

  • mac keyboard
  • mac

The cut, copy and paste options on a Mac computer running OS X Yosemite are slightly different from those on a Windows PC. Typically, you'll find these options under an app's Edit menu or by Ctrl-clicking an item. OS X also has keyboard shortcuts for these options using the Command key.

Basic Copy and Paste

Any selected item in OS X can be copied, except for apps and documents where the option has been disabled. To copy an item, select text or an object in a document, or select a file in Finder. There are three ways to copy the selection:

  • Press Command-C.
  • Right-click or Ctrl-click the item and select Copy.
  • Click the Edit menu and select Copy.

After the item is copied to the clipboard, select a folder or place the cursor in the document where you want the item to appear. To paste the item, do one of the following:

  • Press Command-V.
  • Right-click or Ctrl-click and then select Paste.
  • Click the Edit menu and select Paste.

Cutting

In Mac OS X Yosemite, cutting from Finder or the desktop isn't possible. You'll notice that in the Edit menu, the Cut option is grayed out. In most apps, including TextEdit and the Microsoft Office apps, you can cut as well as copy.

Select the item or text that you want to cut and then:

  • Press Command-X.
  • Right-click or Ctrl-click the selection and select Cut.
  • Select Cut from the Edit menu.

Right-click options in TextEdit

Tips and Tricks

When you cut or paste text into a rich text-formatted document, such as TextEdit, you have the option to Paste and Match Style, rather than using a plain Paste. This is available under the Edit menu or by pressing Option-Shift-Command-V. It is usually not available by Ctrl-clicking.

TextEdit's Edit options.

To select all in Mac OS X, Press Command-A. This highlights all the content in a document or all the files in a folder.

To clear the contents of your Mac's clipboard, highlight a single word or a single letter in a word and then press Command-C. This replaces whatever was in the clipboard with that word or letter.

To view the contents of the clipboard, launch Finder and select Show Clipboard from the Edit menu. The clipboard viewer only shows you plain text. If you have a file or an image in the clipboard, only its name appears, such as "photo.jpg."

If you want to copy portions of the screen, see our tutorial on how to capture screenshots on a Mac.