The Cut, Copy, and Paste commands are essential tools when you work on a computer, and you find them everywhere in Windows. It’s simple to move things around if you know how to cut. Also, understanding how to copy and paste on Windows efficiently can drastically reduce the time you spend creating materials on your computer or device. This tutorial illustrates several methods to duplicate and move data in Windows, including the popular Cut and Copy shortcut keys, as well as the Paste shortcut key:
How to select the items 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. Whether highlighting text or selecting multiple files in File Explorer, the most straightforward way to select items is by using your cursor to create a selection area. Click or tap once, and hold to start your selection. Drag the cursor or move your finger until everything you want to select is highlighted, then release. This method is universal for most apps and programs in Windows, no matter what type of data you are selecting.
Once you’re done selecting the files, folders, text, or any other item, you can use one of the following methods and shortcuts to cut or copy and paste in Windows, depending on which one you prefer.
1. Use your keyboard to copy or move items: the Cut, Copy, and Paste shortcut keys
We all use keyboard shortcuts daily because, most of the time, we’re too lazy to lift our hands off the keyboard. 🙂 However, when it comes to moving items around, the Cut, Copy, and Paste shortcut keys also come with the bonus of being universal across different Windows apps and programs - you can even customize how you work with text in the Command Prompt to increase your efficiency using these keyboard shortcuts.
The Windows Copy shortcut keys are the most intuitive:
The Cut and Paste shortcuts also use the Ctrl key. To move items in Windows, use these Cut shortcut keys:
After copying or cutting your data, use the Paste shortcut to add it where you want it. The Paste shortcut keys are:
When you’re cutting or copying and pasting text, the Paste (Ctrl + V) shortcut keeps the original formatting, like the font and style. If you want to paste text without formatting, use this keyboard shortcut instead:
That makes the pasted text take on the format of the text around it. In Microsoft Word, the shortcut to access the Paste Special menu for the same result is:
TIP: In Word, you can also use the Alt +Shift + Up/Down shortcut to quickly select and move the paragraph your cursor is in. We encourage you to try it out.
2. Use your mouse to cut or copy and paste (right-click menu)
If you use your cursor for highlighting, the right-click menu is convenient for moving or copying the selected data. Right-click or press-and-hold on your selection to open a contextual menu, and then press Cut or Copy, depending on what you want.
If you’re using Windows 11, the Cut and Copy shortcuts are displayed as small buttons at the top of the right-click menu:
If you’re using Windows 10, you’ll find the Cut and Copy shortcuts listed as standard options in the right-click menu.
Go to where you want to paste the data and right-click or press and hold to open another contextual menu. There, click or tap on Paste.
If you’re using Windows 11, the Paste shortcut looks like a small clipboard:
If you’re using Windows 10, the Paste shortcut is listed as a regular right-click menu option:
The right-click menu looks different depending on the app you’re using, but the Cut, Copy and Paste options should be available regardless.
Certain apps have several Paste options available, as seen in the screenshot above. In Word, you get three Paste Options, depending on the formatting you prefer for the pasted text, as you can see below. Hover over each one for more details.
NOTE: If the selected information is read-only (e.g., any data on the webpage you are reading in your browser right now), you can only Copy it. Cut and Paste are unavailable since you cannot edit the info.
3. Use the cut, copy, and paste shortcuts in your favorite apps
Some Windows apps have embraced the top menu or ribbon as their primary navigation tool. Cut, Copy, and Paste are displayed in the Home tab, together with other additional options that serve a similar purpose.
In Word, the menu has different additional options, and you can also Paste without formatting.
4. Use the cut, copy, and paste shortcuts in an app’s Edit menu
If the app you’re using doesn’t have a top menu or ribbon that’s always displayed, you should find the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands in its Edit menu, as is the case with Notepad.
TIP: If you can’t see the Edit menu, press Alt + E on your keyboard to reveal the Cut, Copy, and Paste options.
5. Use drag and drop as a shortcut to cut, copy, and paste
After selecting some items, you can drag and drop them somewhere else to cut and paste everything in just one move. Click or tap once, and then hold to grab the selected data. Then, drag your selection and drop it where you want to paste it.
The selected items are moved as soon as you release the button or take your finger off the screen.
If you want to copy and paste just as easily, use the Ctrl key before grabbing or while dragging the data that you want to duplicate. A plus sign appears next to your cursor, letting you know the info is being copied instead of moved.
NOTE: This works with files and folders or when dragging some text within the same text editor. Dragging and dropping doesn’t work for text in Notepad. However, we had no problem copying and moving text between Word and Wordpad this way. We recommend snapping app windows to split the screen to get the most out of this method, no matter what you’re moving or copying.
6. Use the paste shortcuts in the Windows Clipboard
The Clipboard is a temporary storage area where the data you copied or cut most recently is saved until it gets overwritten. However, in Windows 10 and Windows 11, you can press Windows + V and use the Clipboard to paste older items also.
TIP: If you find this method useful, you can even sync the Windows Clipboard with other computers and devices.
What’s your preferred way to cut, copy, and paste in Windows?
We feel that, when it comes to cutting, copying, and pasting, Windows is superior to macOS in its simplicity. That is because the process is the same on Windows, while the Mac has one set of instructions for copying and moving files and folders and another for cutting, copying, and pasting text. As you can imagine, our work at Digital Citizen involves a lot of Cut, Copy, and Paste actions, so we frequently use almost all these methods. What about you? Which methods do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.