Select, Cut, Copy Paste on a Computer

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If you read our overview of How to Select, Cut, Copy and Paste and you're on a PC, Mac, or Chromebook, this article is for you. We'll show you the ways to do the things we discussed on a system where you use a keybooard with a mouse or touchpad.

In some cases, we'll show you several methods. Use any one that works for you. Just because there are multiple ways to accomplish something doesn't mean that you have to memorize them all. If you want to learn more later, come back and read this again.

SELECT Your Text

When people copy and paste, most often they want some -- not all -- of the text in a page. It could be as little as a single word or phrase, or a couple of paragraphs. Here's how to select the text you want to copy.

Selecting just one word:

Put your cursor over the word you want to select. Double-click (two rapid clicks) with your mouse or double-tap with the trackpad on the word you want. It will highlight, showing that it is selected. (You can try it with the text on this page. The examples with black outline are images, not text, so it won't work on those.)

Selecting the entire paragraph:

Put your cursor over any point in the paragraph you want to select. Triple-click (three rapid clicks) with your mouse or triple-tap with the trackpad. The entire paragraph will highlight, showing that it is selected.

Selecting arbitrary text -- several words, sentences, or paragraphs

Begin by putting your cursor over the text you want to copy, just to the left of the place that you want to begin. The cursor pointer will probably be the I-beam.

Method 1: Click and Drag

Now, if you're using a mouse, click down once with your left mouse button and hold the mouse button down (don't lift your finger from the button). Then drag your mouse pointer over the text until all of the text you wish to copy is colored differently than the rest of the text on the page. Now let go of the mouse button. The text you selected should remain highlighted.

If you're using a touchpad or trackpad, such as on a laptop or Chromebook, just press down with your finger on the word you want to begin with and, continuing to press down, drag your finger to the point that you want to end. Then remove your finger and the text should be highlighted.

As you can see from the animated picture, you can take the shortest path between your beginning and ending words. If they're on more than one line, when you drag your pointer or finger to the next line it will select the text in between.

Method 2: Select with the pointer and the Shift Key

Put your cursor where you want to begin, and click. Then hold down the Shift key on the keyboard, put your cursor where you want the selection to end, and click. Then you can release the Shift key. The text you selected should be highlighted.

By the way, if your hand shakes, or you have difficulty getting the mouse to select what you want when you drag it, you'll probably find this to be the easiest way to select: click at the beginning, hold down the Shift key, then click at the end.

Method 3: Select with the Shift Key and Arrow Keys

If you're using a keyboard with arrow keys, you can select text with them, even without a mouse. Put the typing caret at the point you want to begin, hold down the Shift key, and use the arrow keys to go to the end of the text you want to select.

Select All

Select All with keyboard shortcut

If you want to select everything on a page, you can do with by pressing Ctrl-A (Cmd-A on the Mac and iPad keyboards).  Some of our readers will remember doing that on WebTV: Ctrl-A or Cmd-A means "Select All."

The "All" includes the page itself, but not the menus that may be part of the app that is displaying the page (like the browser). If you Select All in an email program, for example, it usually doesn't include the headers (to, from, subject, etc.).

If you are typing in a form field in a web page -- for example, you're typing a comment in a Talk4TV form or here in a comment field, or you're typing an email in a web mail form, "Select All" will select everything in that field, not everything on the page itself.

Select All from the menu

On the top of most computer apps, you'll see the app Menu: File Edit View ... In the Edit menu, you'll find an option to Select All. It has the keyboard shortcut next to it to remind you.

You may notice that Cut, Copy and Paste are also in the Edit menu. Now that we know how to select the text we want, let's see how to use those features.