Looking for computer help? Every week, our Tekspert answers one question about digital technology. Computers, tablets, phones, cameras…
Have you ever typed something in a Word document and then had to retype it when someone asked you to email it to them; or been overwhelmed when a website emailed you a complicated password that looks like “12%th8n*g254t!h1#546” to enter into a password field on a website; or received an email with an address that you wanted to copy to your contacts list?
Sure, you can always retype. But retyping is time-consuming and allows plenty of room for error. So what’s the best way to copy text? Your computer has a built-in solution!
Using simple commands on your Mac or PC, you can “copy and paste” one word, a web address, a password, entire paragraphs – even pictures. It’s useful to know how to copy and paste, because the process will work in almost any program on your computer. So let’s get to it! I’ll explain how, step by step, and you can also watch a video at the end of this article.
Understanding the Difference Between “Copy,” “Cut” and “Paste”
On your Mac or PC, the copy, cut and paste functions each do different things. Before we get started, here’s a quick rundown of what each does:
- Copy To copy text that’s on your computer or on the Internet is similar to photocopying a document on a Xerox machine. You are making a duplicate of an original. So you still keep the original, and you also have a separate copy. How do you know if the text or image can be copied? If you can highlight it with your cursor, then you can copy it. You can usually copy text that’s in an email, a Microsoft Word document, or the URL in your web browser (Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Remember, you can copy just one sentence or entire paragraphs.
- Cut Using the “cut” function on your computer is like cutting out a paragraph from a piece of paper with scissors. Only one version of that paragraph exists. On your Mac or PC, you can cut the same text allows you to copy – anything that you can highlight with your cursor.
- Paste The paste function is the “glue.” You can paste text you have recently copied or cut. If you copy or cut text from your computer, an email or a web page, you can paste it just about anywhere.
OK, now we’re ready to get started.
1. Cut or Copy Highlight the Text or Link
To start the copy and paste process, you need to highlight the text or link that you would like to copy. To do this, move your cursor to the text you would like to copy.
For PC Users Click the left button on your mouse and hold it down. While holding the button down, drag your cursor over the words that you would like to copy.
For Mac Users Click anywhere on your mouse and hold it down. While holding down the mouse button, drag your cursor over the words that you would like to copy.
2. Copy the Text or Link
Once you are finished highlighting, lift your finger off your mouse. But don’t move your mouse. Keep your cursor inside the highlighted text.
For PC Users Lightly click on the right button on your mouse. This time, you will not hold down the button. You’ll see a menu pop up with the options to Copy, Cut, Paste or Delete. Select Copy.
For Mac Users Go to the upper left of your screen to the Edit Menu. Most programs on your computer will have Copy under the Edit Menu alongside other options to Cut, Paste or Delete. Click on Copy.
3. Paste the Text or Link
Now the text is temporarily saved in your computer’s memory, so you can go to wherever you would like to paste it – an email, a form on a web page or a Word document, for example. Place your mouse cursor exactly where you would like to paste the text. If you are copying and pasting a link, you can open a new web page. If you are copying and pasting text into a new document or email, open a new document or email and make sure your cursor is blinking.
For PC Users Lightly click on the right button of your mouse. You’ll see the same pop-up menu as before. This time, click on “Paste.” Voila! Your text should magically appear.
For Mac Users Go back up to the Edit Menu and select the “Paste” option. Voila! Your text should magically appear.
Take a look at this video – it should help to make the process crystal clear.
Ready to practice?
Copy this URL into your browser’s address bar:
Got a question? Ask it in the comments box below, or email it to email@example.com