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How do I Copy and Paste?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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One of the handiest functions on computers is learning the shortcuts to copy and paste text quickly and easily. Luckily, you can use hotkeys or keyboard shortcuts to make the going easier, rather than taking the longer method of menu navigation. The shortcuts are basically the same in both Windows® and Apple® operating systems. PC keyboards use the Control (Ctrl) key in combination with other keys, while Apple substitutes the Command key.

To begin, place the cursor at the beginning of the text you wish to copy, then hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor across the text to highlight it. You can drag it downwards to cover multiple sentences or paragraphs if need be. Let up on the mouse button when you’ve reached the end of the text you want to copy.

If it’s necessary to highlight more text than is visible on a single page, place the cursor at the beginning of the desire text, click once and let go, then scroll down to the end of the desired text, hold down the Shift key and click the mouse at the end point. All text between the two clicked points will highlight automatically.

Once you have the desired text highlighted, press the Control key down (Apple users press the Command key), keeping it down while pressing and releasing the letter “c.” The text is now copied to the clipboard. If you would rather use menu navigation to copy, click on Edit in the top toolbar, then Copy.

With the selection now copied to the clipboard, place the cursor at the spot where you would like to paste the text. Hold down the Control key (Apple users hold down the Command key), and press/release the “v” key to paste the text. For menu navigation select Edit once again, then Paste

An alternate method to paste text that has already been copied to the clipboard is to right-click the mouse button on the spot you wish to paste, and choose “Paste” from the popup menu. If “Paste” is grayed out (unavailable), the clipboard is empty. Repeat prior steps and try again.

One of the most problematic areas of copy and paste is trying to copy a long website address from an email program into a Web browser. The word-wrap function in email can break a long link into multiple lines. While the first line will look clickable, it will not succeed because the rest of the address has been “broken away” on proceeding lines. If you try to paste the lines as one block of text into the Web browser, line breaks can interject spaces, making it useless.

There are a few ways around this. First, you can try turning off the word-wrap function in the email program so that the address will revert to one continuous line. With the link unbroken, it should be clickable, and assuming your email program is linked to a Web browser, the link should open automatically. If your email program is not linked to a browser, having the address on one line should make it easy to copy and paste, using the instructions above. Just copy it from the email, open your Web browser, and paste the link into the address field (technically called the “URL field” for Uniform Resource Locator).

The word-wrap function is found in different places within different email programs. If you aren’t familiar with this setting, check the program’s Help menu to see where this control is located. You will probably want to return the setting to its original state after you copy the website link.

Windows users sometimes use a small program called Notepad, pasting the website address into program first to reassemble the lines before pasting them into a Web browser.

You can always copy and paste each line of the website address separately into the browser’s address field, taking care to paste each successive line at the end of the previous one, removing any blank spaces. Be careful to leave underscores "_" that are sometimes present in website links.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001007 — On Feb 16, 2019

Not helpful. I am copying text from a website and pasting into word on windows 10, but it only pastes as picture, How do I get the words?

By anon351097 — On Oct 10, 2013

I have a Samsung tablet 10.0 Galaxy ll. How do I copy and paste information from a particular company?

By StarJo — On Feb 24, 2013

Learning the copy and paste key commands saved me so much time at my job. I work as a graphic designer, and I frequently have to copy and paste both photos and words, so having to pull the mouse up to the edit menu every time was costing me valuable work time.

Now, these shortcuts are ingrained into my mind as much as the positions of all the letters on the keyboard. It comes in really handy when I'm building a document that will contain dozens of photos that have to all be the same size. I simply draw one frame and copy and paste it over and over again.

By DylanB — On Feb 23, 2013

@anon157243 – The easiest way is just to copy something else to the clipboard. It will overwrite whatever you had in there.

Sometimes, if I'm in a rush to remove something off the clipboard, I'll just select the words beneath one of my desktop icons and copy them. I'm sure whoever used the computer after me was puzzled if they tried to paste something and saw the words “Recycle Bin” inserted into the document, but that will teach them to meddle!

By Oceana — On Feb 22, 2013

@giddion – It's easy to copy and paste your screen with a PC. There is a button labeled “Print Screen” that is probably located on the top row of your keyboard out to the side of the F12. That's where it is at on my keyboard, but if you don't see it there, just look elsewhere.

If you press this button, you can copy the whole screen. If all you want is the active window, just hold down the Alt key while pressing Print Screen.

Then, open up a blank document in a program that allows you to import photos and hit Ctrl + Paste, or choose Paste from the Edit menu. You should see the photo of the screen appear.

By giddion — On Feb 21, 2013

I am using a PC, and I would like to know how to copy and paste the screen of my browser into a document. I heard that there are ways to either copy the entire screen or just one window, and I'd like to know how to do both of these.

By antrim4 — On Jun 11, 2012

But what about iphones?

By anon157243 — On Mar 02, 2011

after I paste the item, how can i remove the item so it won't paste again in other files?

By anon147485 — On Jan 29, 2011

I am new to cut and paste to web browser and then send it back to whomever for verification of an account. I am also 81 years old and really trying hard to encompass this great invention! I can get into the browser but how do I send it back to sender. I've obviously clicked all the wrong keys.

By anon144341 — On Jan 19, 2011

I'm new to the computer world so I have a question. When someone wants me to copy and paste to my facebook wall, how do I do this?

By anon97243 — On Jul 19, 2010

I have a macbook laptop computer. How do i print from this computer?

By anon43354 — On Aug 27, 2009

Can you instruct me how to print this page?

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