copy and paste

Doing something routine on a desktop computer or laptop may seem straightforward. But when you are trying to do it on an iPhone or iPad, it may become cumbersome and annoying. Thankfully the copy and paste functions are anything but.

The copy and paste functions are particularly helpful to know, as you may have to send an urgent email from your phone, or do some quick web research from your browser.

But with the absence of an “edit” menu (normally found on desktop computers), finding the copy and paste functions on an iOS device is not totally obvious to some.

How To Copy And Paste Text On An iPhone Or iPad

Let’s say I am doing some research on Wikipedia about my current favourite tea. If I want to copy any of the text, I would first have to tap and hold on the first word I want to copy. You will then see the word briefly magnified before being highlighted in blue with two darker vertical lines at either side.

There may be a difficulty if the first word is a website link. Holding that word may activate the link or make the device ask you if you want to copy the link. In that case, start from the end of the sentence or paragraph. Highlight the last word by tapping and holding it.

At this point, you will see the “Copy” function pop up already.

Now, place your finger on the blue dot on the end of the darker vertical line and slide it forwards (or backwards) until the sentence or paragraph you want to copy is highlighted. Like so.

When you are sure you have everything highlighted that you need to copy, tap the “Copy” link. Nothing actually happens at this point. You don’t get any notification that copying has been done. It is done quietly in the background.

Once the text has been copied, you can then open your text editor of choice for pasting. I usually use the Notes app. Open a new note and tap once in the window. The menu will appear again, and you will see that “Copy” has been replaced with “Paste“.

Can you guess what you have to do now? I’ll wait while you figure it out.

Assuming you tapped the “Paste” button, your text will now appear. It’s not plain text though – the formatting is preserved, links and all.

But What If I Want To Strip Away The Formatting?

If you want to copy and paste formatted text into plain text, iOS does not offer that option natively. For that, you would have to use a third-party app. Two options are Plain Paste (free) and Plain Text Paste (0.99 cents). Plain Text Paste is my personal favourite.

Using “Select All”

Some apps, such as Google Chrome and Apple Notes, do not support the “Select All” option. But many others do, including Google Docs.

So if you have a Google Docs file open on your iOS device and you want to copy the entire contents, tap and hold the first word you want to copy again. But this time, you will see a “Select All” option next to the “Copy” option.

Tap “Select All” and all of the text will be highlighted.

If the “Copy” function does not then appear, then lightly tap the highlighted text once and the menu will pop up again.

Copy And Paste Images

Images can also be copied and pasted from one app to another. However, not ALL apps will support it properly. If you try and paste a copied image into the Notes App for example, it will just paste the direct image URL, not show the actual picture.

But other apps, such as Google Docs again, do support it.

Here is an image from Google Image Search. Long-press on the image and a menu will pop up at the bottom. Tap “Copy“.

Now go to a supported app like Google Docs, tap once in the window, and choose “Paste“. The image will now appear.

Conclusion

As you can see, copy and paste is not a difficult process. But it is tucked away like a lot of other options. You just need to know where to look for it.

Mark O'Neill
Freelance journalist and editor living in Würzburg, Germany. Former Managing Editor of makeuseof.com (2007-2013), and contributing writer for other sites such as PC World and Quiet Light Brokerage. Specializing in online security and privacy issues.