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Using the Windows and Macintosh Clipboard: A Tutorial
Copying, Cutting, and Pasting

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©2005 G. Edwin Lint



Selecting Text and/or Graphics in Order to Use Your Clipboard

>>Printing the Screen [Screen Shot]

Keyboard Shortcuts for Copy, Cut, and Paste Routines

Overview of using the clipboard to copy, cut, and paste

Using Your Clipboard to Create a Hyperlink within an E-mail Message or Newsgroup Post

Copying from Non-text Material

Clipboard Glossary


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© 2002 G. Edwin Lint, MA

Updated: November 6, 2006

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Your clipboard is an invisible section in your computer's memory that provides temporary storage for text and/or graphics. The contents of your clipboard will stay there until you use the clipboard to store something else or until you turn your computer off.

You can use the clipboard for the following activities:

  1. Copy selected [highlighted] text and/or graphics from the screen to the clipboard

  2. Cut selected text and/or graphics from the screen to the clipboard

  3. Paste the contents of the clipboard into a document at the insertion point.
    [Click in a document or text field to get a flashing cursor; this is the insertion point for paste activities].

SPECIAL NOTE: While text and/or graphics is selected, [highlighted] it is as fragile as a child's bubble-pipe bubble. If you accidentally bump a wrong key, it will disappear. If this ever happens to you while typing anything, freeze. Then quickly and carefully use the UNDO TYPING command: CONTROL-Z [COMMAND-Z] for Mac users] Your text will come right back.

The first step in any clipboard activity is to select [highlight] the text and/or graphics you wish to copy, or paste.

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Selecting text and/or graphics

Here are the standard ways to select text and/or graphics, making it eligible for copying, cutting, and pasting.:

Type of Selection
Mouse Click and Drag

Click at the beginning of the selection; hold down the mouse key; drag mouse to the end of the selection and release mouse key. Dragging may be done parallel to the screen, vertically, or diagonally.

This method of selection is often [but not always available in areas where you cannot get an I-beam pointer. If you are selecting material that is in table format, you may get the entire table. If this happens, edit the table down to size after the selection has been pasted into its final location.

Shift-ClickClick at the beginning of the selection; hold down the shift key; click at the end of the selection. The second mouse click may be in the same line or as far away as many pages. As long as the shift key is held down, everything between the two mouse clicks will be selected.
Double clickDouble click on a single word and it will be selected.
Arrow keys [left, right, up, down]Click at the beginning of the selection and hold down shift key; use arrow keys to extend the selection in any direction. This method will let you make a precise selection and extend it one character at a time. This kind of precision selection is virtually impossible with mouse click and drag.

Print screen, [Screen shot]

Taking a Screen Shot
Your computer may have a key to the left of the Backspace key labeled Print screen. This key enables you to take a picture of the screen [screen shot], with this picture being copied to the clipboard. Here are some tips for getting ready to take a screen shot.

  • Frame your picture by sizing the screen window.

  • Close all windows that are not "in" the screen shot. Just like taking a regular picture with a camera, you want to clear out the clutter as much as possible.

  • Make sure that no single item in the picture is selected [highlighted] unless that selection is a key part of the picture. [The highlighting of the selection may make any text in this item difficult to read in the finished product because the resolution of a screen shot is marginal at best.]

  • To lose an unwanted selection, click somewhere else in that window. You may still have a dotted outline around the item that was selected but the text in the selection will be legible.

Pasting your screen shot from the clipboard:

  • After the screen shot is on the clipboard, make sure you do not use it again until it has been pasted into your destination document.

  • If you are planning to use the screen shot in an e-mail document, you may have to make the paste in four stages: [a] Paste the screen shot into an empty word processing screen, [b] Select the screen shot by clicking on it, [c] copy it to the clipboard, [d] Paste the screen shot into the e-mail message.

Warning: you must activate Rich Text [html] in your e-mail browser before you can paste a screen shot or insert any other picture. In addition, you must view your screen in Print Layout View. If you use Normal View, the SS will be invisible.

Methods for Selecting objects
  • Click on an individual object

  • Click on the frame surrounding an object or a table such as this one.

  • Select more than one object at a time by shift-clicking. [Click an object to select it; hold down shift key; click another object, etc.]

  • Click and drag mouse around a group of objects creating a lasso. Everything within the lasso will be selected.

  • Control-click on each object you want to select; skip those that are to remain unselected. Control-clicking a selected object will unselect it.

Windows users: You will use the CONTROL key as your action key in a keyboard shortcut for single-stroke copying, cutting, and pasting. The CONTROL key is at the lower left and right corners of the alpha section of your keyboard.

Mac users: You will use the COMMAND key instead of the CONTROL key. The COMMAND key is also know as the Open-Apple key or the Snowflake key and is at either end of the space bar

The best way to copy, paste, and cut is to hold down the CONTROL/COMMAND key while you tap the appropriate action key. [See chart below] Don't try to press the CONTROL key and the Action keys simultaneously. It is nearly impossible.

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Keyboard Shortcuts to Use
While Working with the Clipboard

Action Keys**
To Copy selection to Clipboard:
While you Tap C
To Cut Selection to the Clipboard:
While you Tap X
To Paste Contents of Clipboard into Document at Insertion Point:
While you Tap V

**-- All computer keys are repeat keys so be sure to Tap and not Press.

C = Copy
X = Cut; think of the X as a pair of scissors.
V = Paste; think of the V as a proofreader's caret.

If you ever forget the keyboard shortcuts shown above, they'll always appear in the Edit Menu of the software you happen to be using at the time.

If you use CONTROL-C to copy, selected text and/or graphics is copied to the clipboard but is not moved from it's original location. But, if you use CONTROL-X to Cut, selected text and/or graphics is moved to the clipboard and disappears from it's original location in the source document.

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Overview of using the clipboard to copy, cut, and paste:

First, select [highlight] the text and/or graphics you want to copy or cut to the clipboard.

Second, click where you want the contents of the clipboard to go, when Pasting. Make sure you see the cursor flashing; this is your insertion point.

Third, Press CONTROL-V to paste the contents of your clipboard at the insertion point.

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Using Your Clipboard to Create a [clickable] Hyperlink in an e-mail message, newsgroup post, or other document

[Outlook Express is used in this example. If you are using another e-mail browser, the routines may be similar.]
If you are typing a message to be e-mailed or included in your e-mail signature file, a URL [Universal Resource Locator] will become a Hyperlink if you click at it's end and press space bar once. In an e-mail message, a Hyperlink usually will have a line under it. The Internet is very unforgiving when it comes to typographical errors so it is absolutely essential that you use your clipboard when copying and pasting a URL. I am either a good or an accurate typist, but never both at the same time.

Follow these steps when creating a Hyperlink in the body of an e-mail message:

  1. Make sure you are using Rich Text Format [HTML]. If you're not sure how to do this, click this link and you will go to a page where you can get a tutorial.

  2. Get the target page [where you want your readers to go when they click the link] on the screen. Then select the target URL by clicking in the Address Window until the URL is highlighted. Then copy the URL to the clipboard.

  3. Click in the message window at the point you want the new link to appear. Make sure you see a flashing cursor: this will be the insertion point for the Paste you are about to do in the next step.

  4. Paste the URL from the clipboard into the message window at the insertion point.

  5. Press space bar one time. Your URL will appear with a line under it and it will be a Hyperlink [See note about sending a test message in Step 9.]

  6. Or-- you can imbed a URL into the Message Window by following steps 7, 8, and 9 below:

  7. Select the text and/or graphics you want a reader to use as a Hyperlink

  8. Click on the Create a Hyperlink icon at the far right of the task bar. [This icon consists of a globe of the world and a link in a chain.] Outlook Express will give you a window into which you may paste your target URL. Warning: Make sure you have erased the fragment of a URL OE thinks you need to help you get started. When you first open this window, any helper text will be selected. Just paste your new URL on top of the selected text and your text will replace the helper text.

  9. The text and/or graphics selected in step 7 will now be underlined and will be a Hyperlink [Although it will be underlined, it will not act like a Hyperlink until you take the following step.]

  10. Send a test message to yourself so you can click on your new link and make sure it takes a reader where you intended. Hyperlinks are not activated until a message has been sent and received.

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Copying from Non-text Material

Most of your source material will be of the textual variety. However, you may be able to copy text and graphics from copy that is not textual in nature. In other words, when you pass your mouse pointer over the material, it does not become an I-beam. In such a case, follow these steps in trying to copy to the clipboard:

  1. Click once on the material to make sure it is active.

  2. If you are trying to select an entire web page, press Control-A to select All.

  3. If you are trying to select a portion of the page, click and drag from left to right, in an attempt to select only the material to be copied.

  4. If you get a circle with a diagonal bar in it when you try to click and drag, this material will not let you copy it.

  5. You may get a selection that overspreads the material you are trying to copy, giving you too much. If this happens, try dragging from right to left instead of from left to right.

  6. Right to left dragging is also a good technique to use when you are selecting text that is also a Hyperlink or contains a Hyperlink. You may be less likely to trigger the Hyperlink and cause you to zap to another location with right to left dragging.

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Clipboard Glossary

Clipboard: A portion of your computer's memory that is reserved for temporary storage of text and/or graphics. The contents of the clipboard remain until something is saved on top of them or the computer is shut down.

Command: On a Macintosh keyboard, the key that serves as the Control key on a Windows keyboard. Hold down the Command key while tapping the Action key. This key may be designated by a snowflake icon.

Control/Command-Z: This is the universal undo command. If something happens to selected data during a clipboard routine, hold your breath and don't do another thing until you press Control/Command-Z. [If you are on a Windows computer, you will use Control- Z; on a Macintosh, you will use Command-Z] Repeated use of the Control/Command-Z action can back your computer back numerous steps. Some people don't like to learn and use keyboard shortcuts. Control/Command-Z is one keyboard shortcut you want to learn and use, even if you never learn another one. Control/Command-Z is the 9-1-1 of the computer world.

Control: See Command key above.

Copy: Storing selected data on the clipboard for future use. The copy routine does not change the data unless you accidentally press a key while data is selected. If data is accidentally lost while selected, press Control/Command-Z as described above.

Cut: Moving selected data to the clipboard. When you cut selected data, it is removed from the document and stored on the clipboard.

Hyperlink: Text or graphics that is charged with a URL or e-mail address. When you move your mouse pointer over a Hyperlink, it will become a pointing finger. Clicking on a Hyperlink will move you from the current document to the resource called for in the URL.

I-beam: The shape of the mouse pointer as it moves over a text field that will accept an insertion point. This term comes from steel construction because the mouse pointer looks like the end of a steel beam.

Insertion point: The point where the cursor is flashing. An insertion point is created by moving the mouse pointer over a document until it becomes an I-beam and then clicking the mouse button. The insertion point may be moved with the arrow keys but never beyond the last carriage return in the document.

Open-Apple: Early Apple Macintosh products used an outline of an Apple to identify the Command key, located at either end of the space bar.

Paste: Copying the contents of the clipboard into the document at the insertion point.

Selection: Data that is highlighted or otherwise designated for copying or moving to the clipboard. Nothing can be copied or moved until it first has been selected. See Selecting Text grid above.

URL: Universal Resource Locator; the web address of a specific resource, across campus, across town, or on the other side of the world. Here is the URL for this particular resource: http://www.diskbooks.org/clipboard.html

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