In human-computer interaction, cut and paste and copy and paste offer user-interface paradigms for transferring text, data, files or objects from a source to a destination. Most ubiquitously, users require the ability to cut and paste sections of plain text. This paradigm has close associations with graphical user interfaces that use pointing devices such as a computer mouse (by drag and drop, for example).
Lawrence G. Tesler (Larry Tesler) first transferred "cut and paste" into the context of computer-based text-editing while working at Xerox Corporation Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1974-1975.
Apple Computer widely popularized the computer-based cut-and-paste paradigm through the Lisa (1981) and Macintosh (1984) operating systems and applications. Apple mapped the functionalities to key-combinations consisting of a special modifier key held down while typing the letters X (for cut), C (for copy), and V (for paste), choosing a handful of keyboard sequences to control basic editing operations. The keys involved all cluster together at the left end of the bottom row of the standard QWERTY keyboard, and each key is combined with a control or special modifier key to perform the desired operation:
CUA (for OS/2) also uses combinations of the Insert, Del, Shift and Control keys. Early versions of Windows used the IBM standard. Microsoft later adopted similar key-combinations with the introduction of Windows.
Similar patterns of key combinations, later borrowed by others, remain widely available today in most GUI text editors, word processors, and file system browsers.
Computer-based editing can involve very frequent use of cut-and-paste operations. Most software-suppliers provide several methods for performing such tasks, and this can involve (for example) key-combinations, pulldown menus, pop-up menus, and/or toolbar buttons.
Whereas cut-and-paste often takes place with a mouse-equivalent in Windows-like GUI environments, it may also occur entirely from the keyboard, especially in UNIX text editors, such as Pico or vi. The most common kind of cutting and pasting without a mouse involves the entire current line, but it may also involve text after the cursor until the end of the line and other more sophisticated operations.
When a software environment provides cut and paste functionality, a nondestructive operation called copy usually accompanies them; copy places a copy of the selected text in the clipboard without removing it from its original location.
The clipboard usually stays invisible, because the operations of cutting and pasting, while actually independent, usually take place in quick succession, and the user (usually) needs no assistance in understanding the operation or maintaining mental context.
Copy-and-paste refers to the popular, simple method of reproducing text or other data from a source to a destination. It differs from cut and paste in that the original source text or data does not get deleted or removed. The popularity of this method stems from its simplicity and the ease with which users can move data between various applications visually — without resorting to permanent storage.
Copying often takes place in graphical user interface systems through use of the key-combinations Ctrl+C, or by using some other method, such as a context menu or a toolbar button. Once one has copied data into the area of memory referred to as the clipboard, one may paste the contents of the clipboard into a destination using the key combinations Ctrl+V, or other methods dependent on the system. Macintosh computers use the key combinations ⌘C and ⌘V.
The X Window System maintains an additional clipboard containing the most recently selected text; middle-clicking pastes the content of this "selection" clipboard into whatever the mouse pointer is on at that time.
|Common User Access||shift+Delete||control+Insert||shift+Insert|
|Emacs|| control-W (to mark)|
control-K (to end of line)
|meta-W (to mark)||control-Y|
|vi||d (delete)||y (yank)||p (paste)|
|X Window System||click-and-drag to highlight||middle mouse button|
As of 2007, the cut-and-paste paradigm has become so universal that most computer users take it for granted. A competing paradigm that was popular in some early, highly successful applications, and considered easy to use by the standards of their day, is illustrated by the following sequence of steps:
Several GUI editors allow copying text into or pasting text from specific clipboards, typically using a special keystroke-sequence to specify a particular clipboard-number.
Clipboard managers can be very convenient productivity-enhancers by providing many more features than system-native clipboards. Thousands of clips from the clip history are available for future pasting, and can be searched, edited, or deleted. Favorite clips that a user frequently pastes (for example, the current date, or the various fields of a user's contact info) can be kept standing ready to be pasted with a few clicks or keystrokes.
Similarly, a kill ring provides a LIFO stack used for cut-and-paste operations as a type of clipboard capable of storing multiple pieces of data. For example, the Emacs text-editor developed by Richard Stallman provides a kill ring. Each time a user performs a cut or copy operation, the system adds the affected text to the ring. The user can then access the contents of a specific (relatively numbered) buffer in the ring when performing a subsequent paste-operation. One can also give kill-buffers individual names, thus providing another form of multiple-clipboard functionality.