Copy and paste is one of the most basic and most commonly used features of any desktop or laptop computer. It’s actually hard to imagine being able to use a computer without copy and paste. The iPhone (and iPad and iPod Touch) also has a copy and paste feature, but without an Edit menu at the top of every app like on macOS or Windows, it can be hard to find. This article shows you how to use copy and paste on the iPhone and other iOS devices. Once you know, you’ll become a lot more productive on your smartphone.
Selecting Text to Copy and Paste on iPhone
You access the copy and paste commands through a pop-up menu. These days, most every app supports copy and paste.
To get the pop-up menu to appear, tap on a word or area of the screen and hold your finger on the screen until a window appears that magnifies the text you selected (if your phone has a 3D Touch screen, tap lightly and hold, rather than pressing hard). When it shows up, you can remove your finger.
When you do, the copy and paste menu appears and the word or section of text you tapped is highlighted. Depending on the app you’re using and what kind of content you’re copying, you may have slightly different options when the menu appears.
To copy a link, tap and hold on the link until a menu appears from the bottom of the screen with the URL of the link at the top. Tap Copy.
You can also copy and paste images on the iPhone (some apps support this, some don’t). To do that, just tap and hold on the image until a menu pops up from the bottom with Copy as an option. Depending on the app, that menu may appear from the bottom of the screen.
Selecting Text to Copy and Paste
Once the copy and paste menu appears over the text you’ve selected, you’ve got a decision to make: exactly what text to copy.
When you select a single word, it’s highlighted in light blue. At either end of the word, there is a blue line with a dot on it. This blue box indicates the text you currently have selected.
You can drag the boundaries to select more words. Tap and drag either of the blue lines in the direction you want to select — left and right, up and down.
This option isn’t present in every app, but in some cases, the copy and paste pop-up menu also includes a Select All option. What it does is fairly self-explanatory: tap it and you’ll copy all the text in the document.
Copying Text Onto Clipboard
When you’ve got the text you want to copy highlighted, tap Copy in the pop-up menu.
The copied text is saved to a virtual clipboard. The clipboard can only contain one copied item (text, image, link, etc.) at a time, so if you copy one thing and don’t paste it, and then copy something else, the first item will be lost.
Advanced Features: Look Up, Share, and Universal Clipboard
Copy and paste may seem relatively simple — and it is — but it offers some more advanced features as well. These are a few of the highlights.
If you want to get the definition for a word, tap and hold the word until it’s selected. Then tap Look Up and you’ll get a dictionary definition, suggested websites, and more.
Once you’ve copied text, pasting it isn’t the only thing you can do. You might prefer to share it with another app — Twitter, Facebook, or Evernote, for instance. To do that, select the text you want to share and tap Share in the pop-up menu. This reveals the sharing sheet at the bottom of the screen (as if you tapped the box with the arrow coming out of it) and the other apps you can share to.
If you’ve got an iPhone and a Mac, and they’re both configured to use the Handoff feature, you can take advantage of the Universal Clipboard. This lets you copy text on your iPhone and then paste it on your Mac, or vice versa, using iCloud.