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How to Cut, Copy, and Paste

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Windows computers have long supported Cut, Copy, and Paste operations, using a clipboard area in the computer’s memory. When you cut or copy a selection in a document, program, or website, that object is sent to the clipboard. When you paste something, an object is taken from the clipboard and “pasted” into your document where the mouse cursor is blinking. To cut or copy something, you must first select it.


Paste means to take a selection from the Windows clipboard and insert it into a document or program you are using. We use Ctrl+V (hold the Ctrl key down, press the V key and immediately release both keys) or right-click, then Paste from the popup menu.


Cut means to select something and remove it from its current location to a new location within a document or program or to a different document or program. Typically, we will hold the left mouse button down and move it across text to select the text. This is called a drag operation. Or we may click on a picture to select it and then cut it so it can be moved elsewhere. Think of scrap booking, where you find a picture or article in a magazine or newspaper that you want to add to your scrapbook. You will use scissors to cut it out of the magazine or newspaper and then paste it into your scrapbook. Cut on a computer means remove from its current location. You may or may not paste it somewhere else, depending on your needs.

On Windows computers, we do not use scissors for cutting. Instead, after selecting the item to cut, we use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+X (means hold the Ctrl key down, press the X key, then immediately release both keys) or a right-click on the selection and then choose Cut from the popup menu.


When we copy something, we leave the original where and as it is, and then use the copy somewhere else. For example, an estate attorney may have a main document containing paragraphs or pages of boilerplate text to add to personal wills. When writing your will, the attorney copies appropriate text from the main document and pastes it into your will, to avoid repetitive typing. The original text remains in the main document and is also in your will. We use Ctrl+C (hold the Ctrl key down, press the C key, then immediately release both keys) or right-click, then Copy from the popup menu.

Using the methods described above, we typically use a limited clipboard, that holds only one item at a time. For example, if you cut item A, then copy Item B, then cut item C, Paste will insert only Item C. Each time you cut or copy something, any items on the clipboard is overwritten by the newly cut or coped item.

In October 2018, Microsoft introduced a better clipboard. Read this post to learn more.


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