Select, Cut, Copy and Paste on a Mobile Platform

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If you read our first page of How to Select, Cut, Copy and Paste  and you use an iPad, a Kindle Fire or other Android tablet, or an iPhone or Android smartphone, this article is for you. Select, Cut, Copy and Paste work in similar ways to a computer, but not exactly the same because of the touchscreen and generally smaller display.

Selecting on a Tablet

The iPad and iPhone work exactly the same way, so we'll use the iPhone as an example because we can make it easier to see. If you're on an Android device, the functions that you do are similar, but what you actually see will vary depending on who makes your tablet or smartphone and which version of Android they are using.

Start with the "Long Tap"

To begin, touch and hold on a word in the text that you want to select. We're calling this a "long tap." Keep touching that spot until the magnifier comes up and you see the word highlighted in blue. If that's not where you want to start, you can move the magnifier by keeping your finger on the screen and moving it until the word you want is under it and highlighted.

If you're on Android, you probably won't see a magnifier, but if you tap and hold for a moment, the word will highlight.

The Selection Controls

When you remove your finger, the word that you selected is highlighted. There is a menu of things that you can do with the selection -- including Select All and Copy. But also, there are "handles" at either end of the selected area. Those let you enlarge the selection.

Put your finger on one of the handles and slide it to one end of the area that you want to select, then do the same with the other. You can pull it word by word on the same line, or pull the handles up or down until they select as much of the page as you'd like.

Here's what it looks like on the Kindle Fire (below), and other Android devices will be similar. The handles work the same way as they do on the iPad and iPhone.

Copy or Cut on a Tablet

As you can see in the images above, when you select an area of the text on a tablet, a Menu bar appears above the selection with options of what can be done with the it. To copy the selected text, press Copy on the Menu bar. The text you've selected is copied to the clipboard, ready to be pasted somewhere.

Cutting instead of Copying

If you want just to delete some text and don't want to copy it at all, select the text to delete, then press the "write" icon to bring the keyboard up (if it's not already up) and then press the space or backspace and the text will be gone. If you want to Cut the text to move it somewhere else, first press the Copy to put it on the clipboard and then delete or overwrite the selected text. The removed text will still be in the clipboard where you copied it, ready to paste. You can only Cut or Delete text that's on a page where you can write or edit, but you can Copy text from just about any page.

The Clipboard

Remember, the clipboard is a hidden area of the computer memory, so you won't see it directly. It can only contain one selection at a time, so whatever you copied last will be what is there.

Pasting on a Tablet

Pasting can be done any time you have these two conditions:

  1. You have something that you copied in the clipboard
  2. You are in an area where you can write (email, webpage form, text editor, etc.)

When both of these conditions are met, a "long tap" will bring up a menu option that says "Paste." Tap the Paste option, and the text in your clipboard will be pasted into the page.

Special: Copying and Pasting a Web Address

If you are on you're browsing the web on your mobile device, tapping in the address bar (where the URL of the page is) selects the entire URL, and as soon as you start typing, the selected URL is replaced with what you type.

If you want to copy the address, give it a "long tap" and you'll get the option. If at that point the URL isn't actually selected, the "Select All" will select all the address in the URL, but not all the text on the page.

If you already have copied a URL into the clipboard, and want to paste it into the address bar, just give it a "long tap" and choose the Paste option.


Check out How to Select, Copy, Cut & Paste on a Computer and also the overview, How to Select, Cut, Copy and Paste.

If you have questions or comments, we'd love to hear them.

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1 Comment

wyzdm's picture

Thanks to Cathy B; it'll be

Thanks to Cathy B; it'll be easier for me to show ppl new to Tablets how to cut, copy, & paste with images. :-)