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What is Copy and Paste and how does it work?

Answer: Copying and pasting is one of the most useful capabilities of your computer. When you select text in a document, you can often copy the selection and paste it somewhere else. This helps you avoid the monotonous re-typing of large sections of text.

Your computer's operating system (Windows, MacOS, Linux, etc.) has what is called a "clipboard" where it stores copied objects. Because the clipboard is controlled by the operating system, you can copy and paste text between applications. Not only can you copy and paste text, but you can copy and paste images and even actual files.

Because one program may allow for different formatting of text than another, when you paste text may not be the same as what you copied. For example, you may copy a phrase from Microsoft Word that is in bold type, uses the Verdana font, and is size 16 pt. If you paste it in your system's Notepad, it will appear as regular, unformatted text. Because Notepad doesn't support text-formatting, it will accept the text from the clipboard, but not the formatting. Copying and pasting images between programs may also yield similar results.

You can also "cut" text or an image from a document. This is the same as copying it to the clipboard, but it also removes the object from the document at the same time.

Published: May 27, 2002 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center