How to copy and paste on Mac

If you need to move a block of text, an image or another object from one part of a document to another, or from one app to another, you need to use copy (or cut) and paste. On a Mac, the keyboard shortcuts for this are different to other devices, so if you are coming from Windows you might be confused.

We’ll explain the simple steps you need to take to cut, copy and paste on a Mac.

The main difference between Windows and Macs is the key you need to press – on a Mac this is the Command key. It has a ⌘ symbol on it and it located next to the space bar.

You may also need to use the Option key, which on some Macs is the Alt key.

How to copy on a Mac

Want to copy something on a Mac? Here’s what to do:

  1. Highlight the text/object you want to copy: If it’s a word double click on it, it it’s a sentence or a paragraph double click and drag your curser to the end of the section, or click at the top of a section, press shift, and then click at the bottom of the section.
  2. Copy the selection by pressing Command + C, or Cut with Command + X. Both save the selected text/object to the pasteboard, but Copy leaves it in place while Cut removes it.

Copy Mac

Copy Mac

How to paste on a Mac

  1. As above, you need to first select the text or object you want to copy or cut by pressing Command + C to copy, or Command + X to cut.
  2. Put the cursor where you want to place the text/object, and Paste by pressing Command + V.

Note that the target can be in a different document, or even an entirely different application. Or even on a different device, for that matter – we’ll explain how you can copy and paste from your Mac to your iPhone or vice versa below.

Paste Mac

Paste Mac

How to paste without formatting

We find that there is nothing more frustrating than copying and pasting from one document to another, or from one application to another, only to find that it also copies over the formatting (such as the font). This is annoying if you have different formatting in the document you are working on and it makes things look missmatched. 

To avoid this, you can use a command which makes sure the pasted text follows the formatting of the paragraph or document it’s joining, rather than the one it just left behind.

In that case you need to follow these steps:

  1. Select the text or object you want to copy or cut by pressing Command + C to copy, or Command + X to cut.
  2. Put the cursor where you want to place the text/object, and Paste by pressing Command + Option/Alt + Shift + V.

Copy no formatting Mac

Copy no formatting Mac

It’s quite a key combo, but if you can manage it you will get text pasted in the format of your destination document or application.

This keyboard shortcut can vary between apps, so if Command + Option/Alt + Shift + V doesn’t work try Command + Shift + V.

Other ways to cut and paste

Most people use the Command shortcuts listed above, but there are alternatives.

You could just use your mouse:

  1. Select the text you want to copy.
  2. Right click on it.
  3. Select Cut or Copy.
  4. Right click where you want to paste the text and choose Paste.

How to copy multiple items on Mac

If you are coming to Mac from Windows you may be wondering if you can copy multiple items to your Clipboard on your Mac so that you can choose what you want to paste.

Unfortunately the Mac doesn’t offer this feature.

On a PC you can copy up to 24 items from Office documents to the Office Clipboard and paste them into a document, choosing what you want to paste from the task pane. 

Where is the Clipboard on a Mac?

However, you can see the Clipboard, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open the Finder.
  2. Click on Edit in the menu.
  3. Choose Show Clipboard.
  4. This will show you what you copied last.

Unfortunately it won’t keep a record of everything you have copied.

Best Clipboard tool for the Mac?

Apple doesn’t offer one but you could try a third party clipboard tool that might allow you to store mutltiple copies.


Alfred is a good option and the company has been around for years and years. Alfred is an award winning productivity app, but among other features it offers a Clipboard History as part of a Powerpack, which costs £29 for a single license.

With this tool everything you copy will be available in your searchable history.

You can even save popular text snippets for easy access.

You can choose for Alfred to remember your Clipbpard History for 24 hours, 7 days, 1 month or 3 months.

Alfred Clipboard

Alfred Clipboard

Copy and paste between devices

One more advanced tip before we leave this mostly simple topic behind. With the launch of Universal Clipboard in macOS Sierra in 2016, it’s been possible to Copy on your Mac and then Paste on to your iPhone, or vice versa.

As long as the feature is enabled on your devices it’s exactly as simple as it sounds, here’s what you need to do: 

  1. Highlight the object on your iPhone and tap Copy.
  2. Now open a document on your Mac and hit Command + V. There might be delay of 3-5 seconds for text or 10 or more seconds for an image but soon enough the copied item will appear.

How to copy and paste on Mac: Universal Clipboard

How to copy and paste on Mac: Universal Clipboard

But how do you make sure Universal Clipboard is available on your Mac, iPhone and iPad?

It’s been availble since the arrival of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra 2016, so chances are you are on newer version of Apple’s operating systems, but if not you will need to update.

You’ll also need devices that support the Universal Clipboard feature – Apple outlines them on this page: Continuity requirements.

This includes: 

  • iPhone 5 or newer
  • Any iPad Pro
  • 4th gen iPad or newer
  • Any iPad Air
  • iPad mini 2 or newer
  • 6th generation iPod touch.

On the Mac side this includes:

  • 2015 MacBook or newer
  • 2012 MacBook Pro or newer
  • 2012 MacBook Air or newer
  • 2012 Mac mini or newer
  • 2012 iMac or newer
  • 2013 Mac Pro or newer

Both devices also need to be signed into the same iCloud account. 

You will also need to have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi switched on.

Cut and paste iPhone to Mac

Cut and paste iPhone to Mac

If you have all of the above, here’s what you need to do to get Universal Clipboard working on your Mac:

  1. On the Mac, open System Preferences > General.
  2. Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices’ near the bottom of the menu.
  3. On the iOS device, open Settings > General > Handoff and make sure Handoff has a green slider.

For more information about Continuity features, read our Complete guide to Continuity in Mac and iOS.

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