How to Copy and Paste on Mac (3 Quick and Easy Ways)

You might be here because you’re new to using a Mac. Maybe you just bought one, or someone gave one to you for work or school. Or, you could be here because you’ve had a Mac for a while but just forgot how to copy and paste on Mac OS.

Regardless of why you’re here, copying and pasting on a Mac is quite simple. It may seem as though the functions of Macs and macOS are different, but the truth is they’re actually quite similar to those on Windows. Instead of CTRL + C, on a Mac keyword, you simply press Command ⌘ + C.

Here’s how to copy and paste on MacBook Pros and any other macOS machine. The techniques listed below will work for text, files, and media.

Using a Keyboard to Copy and Paste on a Mac

One of the most noticeable things that differentiate a Mac from a Windows computer is the keyboard.

how to copy paste on a mac

It might look and feel daunting, but it’s not too different from the type of keyboard you’d see on a Windows PC. Fortunately, almost everything you encounter on an app will tell you which buttons you need to press to perform a specific action. In this case, it’s how to copy and paste on a Mac.

As you can see in the image above, the Windows and Alt keys have been replaced with Command (⌘, “cmd”) and Option (⌥) on a Mac. Where you would typically see the Alt key on a Windows computer, now you see Command. And, where you would generally see the Windows key, you now have the Option key.

That’s all well and good, but you’re probably still asking, “so, how do I copy and paste on a Mac?”

To copy, simply highlight whatever you want to get on your clipboard. Then, it’s time to press the buttons to get them copied.

When you’re on a Windows device, you copy by pressing Control + C. When it comes to how to copy on MacBook Pros and Airs (or any Mac), it’s Command ⌘ + C. Command ⌘ + C is essentially the CTRL + C on Mac. And that’s it — that’s how to copy on Mac keyboard options.

The copy keyboard shortcut

Command + C is the copy shortcut on a Mac.

Pasting is similar. Instead of Control + V, it’s Command ⌘ + V. To paste, simply click on whichever app or program you want to paste into and press Command ⌘ + V.

The paste keyboard shortcut

Command + V is the paste shortcut on a Mac.

What about if you wanted to know the Apple cut and paste shortcut keys? That’s really easy too: Command ⌘ + X to cut, then Command ⌘ + V to paste.

The cut keyboard shortcut

Command + X is the cut shortcut on a Mac.

And that’s it! Learning how to copy and paste on MacBook machines is truly simple.

Keyboard Shortcut Recap

When you’re learning to copy and paste on an Apple computer, knowing the keyboard shortcuts is pretty much half the battle. The good news is, they’re pretty easy to remember! And if you’re having a hard time remembering, you can always make a quick Post-it note to help you out until you commit the shortcuts to memory.

Just to help you out, here’s a quick reminder:

  • Copy: Command ⌘ + C
  • Cut: Command ⌘ + X
  • Paste: Command ⌘ + V
  • Paste Without Formatting: Option + Shift + ⌘ + V

Bonus: How to Paste on a Mac, but Without Formatting!

When you’re working between different files or windows, copying and pasting can sometimes feel like a drag. This is especially so when you copy from one file and paste it into your document, only to find out that it brings its formatting along. This is why when you paste text from a website into your document, the text will have a different font, font size, spacing, and more. It’s frustrating to have to go through and reformat everything yourself, and quite frankly, it’s time-consuming too.

Luckily, there’s a way to get around that. We’ve shown you how to paste on your MacBook, but here’s how you can paste anything without formatting. Without formatting means that the text you paste into your document follows your document’s formatting and not the formatting of whatever source it came from.

Copying or cutting the text or media follows the same shortcuts and steps as before. However, when you paste without formatting, here’s the shortcut: Command ⌘ + Option  + Shift + V. Yes — four buttons. That seems like a lot to remember, but once you get that combination down, it slips right into your muscle memory.

The keyboards shortcut for pasting without formatting on macOS

The shortcut to paste without formatting

The shortcut above should work in just about any app. However, some apps or websites use a different variation, so if the four-button combo doesn’t work, try Command ⌘ + Shift + V. This shortcut is what Google Docs uses.

For Microsoft Word, you’re going to have to do things a little bit differently — right-click to bring up your context menu, then select Keep Text Only. If you wish, you can change your settings to make it so this is the default paste mode for you.

How to Copy and Paste on Your Mac Using a Mouse or Trackpad

Sometimes, you can’t or don’t want to use a keyboard, but you might still need to copy and paste something. But do you know how to copy and paste on a Mac without using the keyboard? If you don’t, no worries — here’s how.

There’s an easy way to copy and paste content from your clipboard using just your mouse or trackpad and your Mac’s context menus.

The first thing you need to do is select the content you want to copy. You can click and drag over text using your mouse/trackpad. Then, you can right-click or two-finger tap on your trackpad to bring up the context menu.

An example of the copy paste options

On the context menu, simply click on “Copy” to add the text to your clipboard.

If you’re trying to copy an image or file, you can simply right-click or two-finger tap to bring up the context menu right away. Then, follow the same step of clicking “Copy.”

To paste, go to your destination document or app and right-click to bring up the context menu. Click on “Paste,” and that should be it!

Mac cut and paste is also possible through the context menu brought up by your right click (or double-finger tap). Simply click on “cut” in the context menu, and that’s it!

As you can see, the context menu will also allow you to paste without formatting, at least in apps where it’s an option.

How to Copy Paste on Mac Computers Using the App Menus

You also have the option of using the top menu bars on whichever app you’re using. Highlight the text you want to copy, then move your cursor up to the top of your Mac’s screen to bring up the top app menu.

Edit > Copy

Then, click on “Copy” if you want to copy and “Paste” if you’re going to paste.

You can also cut and paste on your Mac using the top menu bar. Simply click “cut” instead of copy in the menu, as you can see in the screenshot above.

To use this method to paste without formatting, simply select “Paste and Match Style” from the top menu bar.

Is it Possible to Copy Multiple Things at Once on a Mac?

Windows has a built-in clipboard history that allows you to access items you’ve copied in the past. That means if you just keep copying various items such as snippets of text, images, and the like, you can access everything in your clipboard history and paste them as needed.

Sounds cool, but can you copy and paste on a MacBook in the same way?

If you’re talking about copying several files in Finder and pasting them elsewhere, yes. If you’re talking about several snippets of text along with some media, unfortunately, the answer is no.

MacBooks don’t have a clipboard history feature, which means you can only copy and paste one thing at a time. However, there are various clipboard tools and resources that can help you do this — we’ll talk about them in a minute.

Where is the Clipboard on Mac OS?

Although there isn’t a clipboard history feature on your Mac, you can at the very least see your clipboard to know what you have copied. If you’re here because you were asking the question, “where is the clipboard on my Mac?,” here’s the answer:

  1. Open your Finder. For a quick way to do this, you can use Spotlight by clicking on the magnifying glass on the right-hand side of the top menu bar. You can also bring up Spotlight with the keyboard shortcut Command ⌘ + Space bar (then type Finder). Besides learning the copy and paste shortcut on Mac, we also recommend committing this shortcut to memory — it’s endlessly useful!
Finding Finder in macOS
  1. Move your cursor to the top menu bar and click on Edit.
Show clipboard in the edit menu
  1. Click on Show Clipboard. And that’s it!

Your clipboard, pictured below, will show you what you have recently copied, no matter what it is. It could be text (like below), a screenshot, an image, or even a file. Your clipboard will also show you what you have currently copied.

Basic macOS clipboard example

Your Mac’s clipboard

How to Copy and Paste Between Your Apple Devices

People who switch to Macs are often already users of the Apple ecosystem. If they’re not, they may eventually start changing to iDevices simply because of the many benefits the ecosystem may offer.

One benefit, in particular, is the ability to copy and paste across compatible devices without having to do anything special or install anything new.

If you have a Mac and an iPhone or iPad (or both), you can start copy-pasting across your devices, provided they support the Continuity feature. As long as all of your devices are compatible, you can take advantage of Universal Clipboard and Continuity.

To be compatible, your Mac needs to be running macOS Sierra or higher, and your device needs to be running the latest version of iOS.

What is Continuity?

Continuity is a set of features added by Apple a few generations ago that makes it possible to effortlessly transfer calls, texts, and work across all your devices and Mac products.

Under the Continuity umbrella, you’ll find various features like phone call forwarding, Handoff, text forwarding, and personal hotspot setup.

With Continuity, you can use your Mac to compose an email, edit a contact, browse websites, etc. Then, when you want to move to your iDevice (or other Mac computer), you can pick up right where you left off. Or, you can start on an iDevice and transfer to your Mac — it works both ways.

Continuity will only work on the following:

  • Mac machines that are late 2013 model or newer
  • iPod touch 5th generation or newer
  • iPhone 5 or newer
  • iPad 4th generation or newer
  • iPad Air 2 or newer
  • iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad mini 3 or newer

What is Universal Clipboard?

Falling under the Continuity umbrella, Universal Clipboard uses iCloud to allow you to copy and paste between your Mac and iDevices. Universal Clipboard works by syncing your clipboard to iCloud.

Here are a few things to remember when using Universal Clipboard:

  • You can only copy and paste one thing at a time.
  • Anything you copy to your clipboard will expire when two minutes have passed, meaning you will have to work fast.
  • This feature works when copying from any app but works best on native Apple apps.

Read also: Best Apps For MacBook

How to Copy and Paste on Between Your iPhone and Your Mac

Here’s how to copy and paste on a MacBook Pro using Continuity and the Universal Clipboard. This is also how to copy and paste on a MacBook Air or any other macOS machine with the Continuity feature.

First, remember that all devices must be synced to the same iCloud account. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi must be enabled. People have stated that mobile data can work, but not too reliably.

Once everything is good to go, you can begin.

  • From your iDevice, highlight the text you want to copy and long press to bring up the context menu. Tap “copy.” Alternatively, you may tap on the “share” button on the bottom menu and tap “copy.”
  • Go to your destination document or app on your Mac and paste!

That’s all you need to do. It works similarly if you want to copy from your Mac and paste it to your iDevice.

Although this technique is helpful, it might not always be the best method if you want to transfer something from one device to another. Sometimes, using Airdrop or syncing through iCloud might be quicker and easier.

Best Clipboard Tools for Your Mac

Although the basic way that macOS handles the clipboard is just fine and will most likely be enough for most people, it may not be enough for you. If you find yourself wanting to have more features on your Mac’s clipboard, you can use one of the best clipboard tools for your Mac to extend its functionality.

Below are two of our top recommendations.

CopyClip – Best Free Clipboard Tool for Macs

An advanced macOS clipboard

Photo via CopyClip on the Mac App Store

Of the best clipboard tools available on Macs, CopyClip is easily the simplest. The best part is, it’s available for you to download and use entirely for free.

Once you download and install CopyClip on your machine, it will run from an icon (a Paperclip) on your top menu bar. Its simple user interface makes navigation super easy for anyone. Clicking on the CopyClip icon will bring up a context menu that has your most recently copied (or cut) content so you can paste it anywhere you like. The items are also labeled with shortcuts (cmd + 1, cmd +2, and so on) to make pasting a specific item easier.

CopyClip adds the “bare minimum” features to help you manage your clipboard. In your preferences, you can set how many clippings at a time you want the app to remember. You can also blacklist certain apps from your clipboard so that you won’t accidentally copy or record sensitive info like your passwords.

Unclutter – Best 3-in-1 Productivity App with Clipboard History

Unclutter for macOS

If you want a clipboard manager with a little bit of extra oomph in it, try Unclutter. This app is a three-in-one productivity app that offers three main features:

  • Clipboard History
  • Quick Notes
  • Files Hub

The middle panel, files hub, allows you to search and store files you need quick access to (it also works as temporary storage, so you don’t clutter your desktop). The right panel is your quick notes section which allows you to make, store, and even search for notes.

Finally, the panel on the left is your clipboard history. Clipboard history stores all the items you have copied so you can recall them later on. Any formatting will be removed, so you won’t have to use the paste without formatting shortcut if you paste from here. You can also edit and favorite your clippings. In the app’s preferences, you can set how many items you want Unclutter to remember (a maximum of fifty).

Unclutter does not come for free, as you have to buy it for $19.99 to use it. However, this app’s developers are based in Kyiv, Ukraine and have said that all revenue from this app will go to helping the Ukrainian people.

Bonus: Alfred – The Ultimate Mac Productivity App

Alfred 5 for macOS

Alfred is the ultimate productivity app for your Mac, allowing you to automate processes, search and find everything you need, and basically supercharge your macOS so you can have everything at your fingertips. It has a clipboard history but also has fun features like Snippets and text expansion to allow you to save your most used text clips.

You can use Alfred for free, but to access the clipboard history and other premium issues, you’ll need to purchase a Powerpack license, starting at £34 for a single-user license.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you copy and paste on a Mac without a mouse?

If you don’t have a mouse and you are using a MacBook, you can use the trackpad to copy and paste. If you have no mouse or trackpad at all, you can follow our guide above on how to copy and paste on a Mac keyboard.

How do you copy and paste on a Mac and an iPhone?

Copying and pasting between your Apple devices is simple, as long as they are compatible with Apple’s Continuity feature. As long as your devices are compatible and are connected to the same Wi-Fi network (or have Bluetooth on) and logged into the same iCloud account, they can access your Universal Clipboard. Then, just copy from one device and paste on the other!

Where is the clipboard on Mac computers?

You can see your Mac’s clipboard by going to your Finder, clicking on Edit, and selecting Show Clipboard. Bringing this window up will display your currently copied item.

Conclusion

Copying and pasting on a Mac is not a complex endeavor. Remember that you can also take advantage of the universal clipboard if you need to get your content from one device to another quickly. However, it might still be a good idea to get comfortable with Airdrop or iCloud to make things even easier!

Related reading:

Chriselle Sy
Chriselle Sy
+ posts

Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, but she's a geek at heart. When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.

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