All Mac users have grown up with Cmd + C and Cmd + V, the usual shortcuts for copy and paste across most programs. (Just swap the Command key for the Ctrl key on Windows.) But how do you copy and paste on your iPhone?
It might seem like too basic an operation to even bother covering. But you’d be surprised how much it matters to iPhone users who still aren’t steeped in mobile culture.
This guide is for them. Unlike your desktop, there are no shortcut keys or Edit menu. Everything works through a tap on the screen, which we explain below.
How to Copy and Paste Text on iPhone
Tap on the screen and a popup menu reveals the copy and paste commands. This is common across all apps on the iPhone.
Let’s see how this works, step-by-step. You have to select a single word or a snippet of text before you copy and paste it elsewhere on the phone.
1. Double-tap on a single word to select it. A small menu will appear with options for Cut, Copy, Paste, and more. Alternatively, in the browser, you’ll see Copy, Lookup, Share…
2. To select more than one word, drag the handle with the little circle at either end of the highlighted text. You can drag the handle left and right, as well as up and down.
3. Alternatively, you can use these sequences of taps to select a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or all the text on the screen:
- To select a word: Double-tap with one finger.
- Select a sentence: Tap it three times.
- When you want to select a paragraph: Tap it four times.
- And to select all text on a page: Double-tap at the start and drag two fingers down the page.
4. Once you have selected the text you want to copy, tap Copy. The copied text is stored on a “clipboard,” ready to be pasted wherever you want it. This clipboard works in the background and is invisible. Notably, it can only store one item in its memory. If you copy something else, the earlier text will be erased.
5. Tap the location in the app or document where you want to paste the text. Press and hold your finger down until the menu appears. Tap Paste to paste the text.
Tip: Did you know that you can select text better by turning the keyboard into a trackpad? See Apple’s support page on iPhone text editing for instructions.
How to Copy and Paste With Text Editing Gestures
Apple introduced a slew of new gestures in iOS 13. These are quick three-finger movements that allow you to perform common operations like copy and paste. Depending on your preference, you can tap on copy or paste from the menu as explained above, or use these gestures.
It’s best to do these with your thumb and two fingers. Select the text and then:
- Cut: Pinch closed with three fingers two times.
- Copy: Pinch closed with three fingers (imagine you are picking up the words from the screen)
- Paste: Pinch open with three fingers (imagine you are laying them out on the screen)
We have mixed feelings about using these gestures. This might be due to old habits or stubby fingers wrestling on the iPhone’s smaller screen, but you can try them yourself and see if them grow on you.
The official video below will help you understand the technique, along with how to undo and redo the operation.
The Utility of the Universal Clipboard
The Universal Clipboard feature allows you to copy and paste content across your Apple devices, as long as you’re signed into all of them with the same Apple ID. For instance, you can copy text or anything else on your iPhone, then paste it into a document on your Mac or iPad.
Enable each of these to make Universal Clipboard work with your Apple devices:
- Sign-in with the same Apple ID.
- Turn on Wi-Fi for all devices.
- Switch Bluetooth on and keep the devices in range of one another (about 33 feet or 10 meters).
- Enable Handoff on all devices.
Universal Clipboard works with iOS 10, iPadOS 13, macOS 10.12, and later. It’s part of the Continuity features that make all Apple devices work together with the help of iCloud.
How to Copy URL Links on an iPhone
It’s safe to say that URLs (or hyperlinks) are what we copy and paste more than anything else. Thankfully, the process is similar to copying standard text.
Tap and hold the link until a popup menu appears from the bottom of the screen. From here, tap Copy.
You can paste it anywhere on your phone using the same steps as other text.
How to Copy a Safari URL
There are two ways to quickly copy a URL from Safari’s address bar on your iPhone. The screenshots below illustrate the two options.
1. Tap and hold on the address bar. Then tap Copy from the popup menu. Safari will copy the URL to your clipboard.
2. Double-tap on the address bar to display the complete URL. Cut or Copy the URL from the popup menu and paste it anywhere else.
Copy-pasting a URL from somewhere else to browse with Safari? Just tap and hold on the Safari address bar. Tap Paste and Go from the popup menu to automatically go to the webpage.
How to Copy a Text Message
Copying a text message in Messages or chat apps like WhatsApp usually leads to forwarding them. Here’s how it works in Messages on your iPhone:
- Launch the app.
- Tap and hold on the message you want to copy.
- A popup menu appears with Copy as one of the options. Tap on it, then paste it anywhere you want to.
Depending on the content of the message, a different Quick Action menu will appear with a touch and hold on the screen. iOS apps dynamically update their quick actions when new information is available. Here are three types:
- The default menu with the Copy option that selects the entire message.
- A preview is displayed along with the Copy Link option in the quick action menu, if the message contains a link.
- A phone number in the message displays a quick action menu with Copy as one of the options.
How to Copy and Paste Images on an iPhone
You can copy and paste images just as easily from one app to any other which supports it.
Tap and hold on the image until a menu appears below the image with Copy as an option, as shown in the screenshot.
The behavior can differ from app to app. For instance, Twitter will allow you to save an image to Photos but won’t give you the option to copy it. In these cases, you can open the article or photo with Safari, then use the Copy option by tapping and holding it.
Copy and Paste Emojis on the iPhone
Your iPhone has a dedicated emoji keyboard. But sometimes you may want to shower someone with emojis. In these cases, copying the emoji and pasting it multiple times is a timesaver.
This follows the same Select with a tap > Copy > Paste method as described throughout this guide.
Emojis are pretty much everywhere now. But what about specials symbols that are more difficult to get? Think about legal symbols like copyright and trademark, foreign currency symbols, and even fancy Instagram fonts.
You can use a site like Cool Symbol to copy these, then paste the symbol to any app on your iPhone.
Improve Copy and Paste With Clipboard Managers
If you use your iPhone like a workhorse on the move, then it makes sense to install a specialized clipboard manager. Clipboard managers are utilities that help you save multiple clippings and then paste them anywhere.
We have talked about some excellent Clipboard Managers for iOS before, so take a look at those.
An Alternative to Copy and Pasting: Share
Now you know how to copy and paste pretty much anything on your iPhone. But it’s not always necessary to do so. You can often save yourself the bother of a copy-paste, as Sharing is another option.
For instance, you might want to share something from one app to social media like Facebook or Twitter. The Share sheet in iOS not only allows you to copy, but also share quickly via Mail, Messages, and social apps. Learn how to master the Share sheet on your iPhone next.