5 ways to Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows

The Cut, Copy and Paste commands are essential tools when working on a computer, and you find them everywhere in Windows. You can drastically reduce the time you spend producing materials on the computer if you know the most efficient ways to Cut, Copy and Paste data. Read this guide to make sure that you make the best use of these commands in Windows:

Start by selecting what you want to Copy or Cut

The first step in the Cut/Copy and Paste process is to select the data that you want to handle. The process is the same whether you select text, images, or files. When you use the physical keyboard to select, you position your cursor at one end of the intended selection and then while holding down the SHIFT key, you move the cursor to the other end. If you prefer to use the mouse, you click at one end of the selection, hold down the click button and move the mouse to the other end of your intended selection. On touch screens, you need to tap on one end and then drag your finger immediately to the other end of your selection.

In the case of text, the selection is highlighted with a different background color so that you can verify that you have made the right selection.

Text selected in a Windows app

For images, you have a rectangle with dotted lines surrounding your selection.

Part of an image selected in Paint, from Windows

In the lists of files, you may need to select multiple files to Copy or to move (Cut). If you have a single continuous list of files, click the file on one end of the list and then, while holding down the SHIFT key, you click the file on the other end. This is how we got the first part of our list selected. If you want to add individual files, you click on them while holding down the CTRL key as in the second part of the selection. If you want to add another continuous list of files, hold down the CTRL key for the first file in the list, and then you press and hold down both the SHIFT and CTRL keys, and you click on the last file.

Selecting multiple files in Windows

Now that you have made your selection, it is time to execute the actual clipboard commands. Read the following sections in this guide to learn how to Cut, Copy, and Paste.

1. Keyboard shortcuts for Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows

If your device has a physical keyboard, one of the easiest ways to Copy and Paste is by using keyboard shortcuts.

  • Cut - use keyboard shortcut CTRL+X
  • Copy - use keyboard shortcut CTRL+C
  • Paste - use keyboard shortcut CTRL+V
Keyboards shortcuts for the Cut, Copy and Paste commands

Press the CTRL key first, and then press the letter for the command you want to activate. If you can move between windows using the keyboard as well (using, for example, ALT+TAB), you cannot beat the keyboard for speed.

2. Right-click menu for Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows

In case you need to operate with the mouse or on a touchscreen, the right-click or long tap on the selection is a convenient way to access the clipboard commands. The menu that comes up is called the contextual or the right-click menu, and its content depends on the app you are using.

Here is an example from Paint, in which we marked the clipboard commands.

Cut, Copy, and Paste options from the right-click menu in Paint

Here is an example from Notepad with the clipboard commands marked:

Cut, Copy and Paste commands in the right-click menu from Notepad

If the information you have selected is read-only, like in the case of selecting text on this page in the web browser, only the Copy command appears, and you cannot Cut or Paste.

The Copy command in the right-click menu of a web browser

The clipboard commands in File Explorer are available in several separate menus.

One of them lets you Copy or Cut a file to the clipboard, and it is available when you right-click or long tap a file or a group of files.

The Cut and Copy commands in the right-click menu for a file in File Explorer

Another menu is available when you right-click or long tap on a folder or in an empty area inside a folder.

The Cut and Copy commands in the right-click menu for a folder

Read this to learn how to open File Explorer in Windows.

3. Using the ribbon to Cut, Copy, and Paste in Windows

The modern apps in Windows have embraced the ribbon as the primary navigation tool. The clipboard commands appear as buttons, and, most of the time, they are the first buttons on the first Home tab displayed in the ribbon.

For example, here is the ribbon from Paint.

The Clipboard section on the ribbon from Paint, in Windows

Here is the example of the ribbon from Wordpad.

The Clipboard section on the ribbon from Wordpad

If you click the down arrow on the Paste button in Wordpad, you get an additional level of sophistication with Copy and Paste. Since Windows allows the handling of multiple data formats, during the Paste command, you can decide to change the format of the data inserted from the clipboard using "Paste special."

The Paste special option in Wordpad

For more details on Paint and Wordpad, read How to work with Paint in Windows and How to work with WordPad in Windows.

4. Using the menus to Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows

There are a few applications that rely on the old format of menus for access to their commands and Notepad is one of them. The clipboard commands appear in this case as part of the Edit menu:

The Edit menu in Notepad from Windows

To learn more about Notepad see What is Notepad and seven things you can do with it.

5. Using Copy and Paste in the Command Prompt from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

There is one exception to the general rules we have described above: the handling of Copy & Paste in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in the Command Prompt window. This is one place in Windows where the regular keyboard shortcuts do not work. The access to the clipboard commands is restricted to Copy and Paste. The commands are available through the window menu when you click or tap on the top-left corner. When you open the Edit submenu, the Mark, Copy and Paste commands appear.

The Copy and Paste commands from the Command Prompt in Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

The Mark command allows you to select text from the window using the keyboard arrows while holding the SHIFT key down or using the click or tap and drag. When you are done selecting (the text selected appears marked in negative colors), you can press ENTER to Copy. You can also select the command from the same menu. The Paste command is available only from the menu.

How do you prefer to Copy and Paste?

You can run the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands in multiple ways depending on the type of content that you manage and the app you use. Using the right way leads to faster execution and less time spent doing the same tasks. What is your preferred way to Cut, Copy and Paste?