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Lesson 6 - Basic Copy/Cut & Paste



Copying, Cutting and pasting is something you will no doubt be doing an awful lot of when working in Excel, especially when you Start to use formulas to perform calculations. The reasons for this will become more apparent when we cover the basics of Excel formulas in later lessons. For now, we will just look at Copying, Cutting and pasting typed-in data.

Before we move on to any examples, it is important that we know the difference between Cutting and Copying. When we Copy data from one cell to another, we are doing exactly what the name implies, Copying it. In other words we are making a duplicate of the cells content and placing it somewhere else. When we Cut data from a cell or range of cells, we are actually MOVING it from its current location to a new location. Pasting, by definition is placing either the Cut or Copied data in its new destination. Copying

There are many ways that we can Copy or Cut data in Excel, the way that you do it is purely optional and should be the way you are most comfortable with. We will have a look at the most common ways. Type your name into cell A1 we will use this for all the examples of how to Copy and Paste. Make sure you are selected in cell A1. Then you can either:

  • Right click on the cell and from the Shortcut menu select Copy.
  • Go to Edit>Copy
  • Push Ctrl + C on your keyboard
  • Select the Copy icon from the Standard Toolbar. This is the one immediately to the right of the scissors symbol. (Note:Remember to hover your mouse over the icons on your toolbars to see what they do).  

You will notice that cell A1 now has a moving dashed line around it. This is called a Marquee. This indicates that you have copied the content of that cell (A1 in this case) to what is known as the Clipboard. The clipboard is where Excel stores all data that you Copy or Cut from your worksheet until such time as you either Exit Excel, or clear the Clipboard.


Cutting from a cell, or range of cells is done in a very similar way to the methods described above for Copying. The differences being, when you Cut data you remove the original data and when you Paste it, you will ALWAYS be pasting in all attributes of the cell you Cut from. This means that the Paste Special option is not available when you Cut a cell or range of cells.

Again, as with most options in Excel, there are a multitude of ways to Cut a cell. The most common are:

  • Right click and select Cut from the Shortcut menu
  • The Cut icon on the Standard toolbar (the pair of scissors)
  • Go to Edit>Cut
  • Press Ctrl + X on your keyboard
  • Use the Drag and Drop operation the same way as you would do to Copy, except you DO NOT hold down your Ctrl key.

Note: Depending on what version of Excel you are using, sometimes you can see your Clipboard as it will pop up onto your screen as a Toolbar, or if you are using a newer version of Excel, the Clipboard Task Pane may locate itself on the right hand side of your screen. Both of these are used for multiple cutting, copying or pasting actions, and we don't need them right now. If you see either the Clipboard toolbar, or the Clipboard Task Pane, close them down by clicking on the X at the top right hand side. Pasting

Now select any other cell and either:

There is a slight difference with the second option, ie; Push Enter on your keyboard. This is that by pressing Enter you will CLEAR the Clipboard after it has Pasted in the data. You will notice with the other four methods that the contents of cell A1 stays on the clipboard. This means that we could select other cells and continue pasting as much as we like using any of the above methods other than using Enter on our keyboard.

There is another method that can be used to Copy, this is called Drag and Drop, and is possibly the fastest method if you only intend to Paste the data into one destination as opposed to various.

For this method, again select in cell A1, hold down your Ctrl key, and move your mouse pointer to the outer perimeter of the cell until the mouse pointer changes to a white arrow. It should also have a small plus sign to the top right of it. Whilst still holding down the Ctrl key, hold down your left mouse button and drag in the desired direction to Copy. Once you have your copied data in the cell you want to Paste to, simply release the mouse button.

If you also hold down your Alt key whilst doing this, you can change sheets by dragging the copied data over the sheet name tab that you wish to Paste it to.

If you Copy a range of cells eg; A1:B10 and then select a single cell as the destination range, Excel will use the active cell as the top left of the destination range. For example if you Copy A1:B10 and select cell C1 as the Starting cell to which to paste, the range C1:D10 will become filled with the copied data. If you select cells C1:C2 and tried to Paste, Excel would tell you that the Copy area and the Paste area are not the same size and shape. Select an area of the same size and shape, or select a single cell only. Most often it is best to select a single cell only and let Excel determine the Paste area.

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