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 Mac, the keyboard shortcuts for this are different to other devices.

  1. Highlight the text/object.
  2. Copy by pressing Cmd + C, or Cut with Cmd + X. Both save the selected text/object to the pasteboard, but Copy leaves it in place while Cut removes it.
  3. Put the cursor where you want to place the text/object, and Paste by pressing Cmd + 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.

Alternative shortcuts

Most people use the Cmd shortcuts listed above, but there are alternatives. After highlighting the object or choosing the paste position, you can right-click and select Cut, Copy or Paste from the menu; or select them from the Edit dropdown menu.

How to copy and paste on Mac: Right-click

Paste and match style

Sometimes when pasting between differently formatted documents, or particularly when switching between different apps, you can find that pasted text looks funny. This is because you've unwittingly copied the formatting of the text as well.

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.

Instead of hitting Cmd + V to paste the text, go to the Edit dropdown menu and select 'Paste and match style'. There is a keyboard shortcut for this, but unfortunately it varies between apps: usually it's Cmd + Shift + V, but in a few apps (such as TextEdit) you have to press the Alt/Option key as well.

Copy and paste between devices

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

Assuming the feature is enabled, it's exactly as simple as it sounds. Highlight the object on your iPhone, say, and tap Copy. Now open a document on your Mac and hit Cmd + 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

But how do you make sure Universal Clipboard is available? Other than iOS 10 and macOS Sierra or later, both devices must be signed into the same iCloud account and have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi switched on. And they will both have to pass the Continuity requirements.

There are also a couple of settings to check. On the Mac, open System Preferences > General. Make sure there's a tick next to 'Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices' near the bottom of the menu.

On the iOS device, open Settings > General > Handoff and make sure Handoff has a green slider.

For much more on these features, read our Complete guide to Continuity features in Mac and iOS.