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How to copy and paste in Google docs

The online app frees you from having to install software on your device.

Published onSeptember 20, 2022

samsung galaxy a23 google apps
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google Docs is a convenient and free way to get the basic functionality of the Microsoft Office suite of programs. It lets you create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in an online interface, and save and share them in a variety of formats. Using Google Docs frees you from having to install software on your device, but it requires you have internet access to use it (unless you add an off-line extension to your Chrome browser). Learning how to manipulate text is essential to using these apps, so the first thing you should learn is how to copy and paste in Google Docs.

It seems like Google designed Docs to behave as much like Office as possible. That includes methods for selecting and manipulating text. There are limitations to an online interface, however, so read on to find out how to copy and paste in Google Docs.

Use your mouse to click at the beginning of the text you want to copy. Then, with the mouse button pressed, drag the cursor over to the end of the text you want to copy. Let go of the mouse button and press Ctrl + C (on a Mac, Command + C). The selected text is now in your clipboard. Press Ctrl + V (or Command + V) to paste.


How to select text in Google Docs

There are multiple ways of selecting text in Google Docs. Learning all of them can speed up your work significantly. Here they are:

  • Click and drag: Click to place the cursor at the beginning of the text you want to copy and hold the mouse button down. Drag the cursor to the end of the text to be copied. Let go of the mouse button.
  • Click and Shift + click: Click to place the cursor at the beginning of the text. Move the cursor to the end of the text to be copied. Hold down Shift and click again.
  • Double-click on a word to select the whole word.
  • Triple-click anywhere within a paragraph to select the entire paragraph.
  • Right arrow key: Click to place the cursor, then hit Shift + right arrow key to select one character to the right of the cursor (Shift + Ctrl + right arrow key will select one word to the right). This also works with the left arrow key to select to the left of the cursor.
  • Down arrow key: Click to place the cursor. Then hit Shift + down arrow key to select one line down (Shift + Ctrl + down arrow key will select to the bottom of the paragraph). This will also work with the up arrow key to select a line or paragraph up from the cursor.
  • Ctrl + A: This command will select the entire document, start to finish.

Once you have the necessary text selected, you can cut it or copy it to your clipboard to be pasted elsewhere.

How to cut, copy, and paste in Google Docs

Keyboard shortcuts

The keyboard shortcuts (sometimes called keyboard equivalents) for mouse-based commands are usually the fastest, most efficient way to manipulate blocks of text, since most people who perform this task are writing or editing something, tasks that are keyboard-intensive. The less you must lift your hand from the keyboard to use the mouse, the faster your work will go and the easier it will feel. There are four keyboard commands you need to know for text manipulation:

  • Ctrl + C will copy the selected text to the clipboard.
  • Ctrl + X will cut the text from the document and place it on the clipboard.
  • Ctrl + V will paste the contents of the clipboard where the cursor is placed.
  • Ctrl + Z will undo the last command you entered.

Making it a habit to use the keyboard commands instead of reaching for the mouse will, over time, help you write and edit faster and with less exertion.

The context menu

Often called the right-click menu after what you do to bring it up, the context menu is called that because it contains different options depending on where your mouse cursor is at the moment. Right-clicking over text will bring up commands for Cut, Copy, and Paste, as well as an option to bring up a definition of the precise word you are hovering over.

Copy Paste Google Docs Context Menu
Kevin Convery / Android Authority

This is a tricky part of using Google Docs if your browser is not Chrome. Trying to use the context menu in Google Docs in Edge, for example, will bring up a notice from Google that in order to copy, cut, or paste in the app, you are going to have to install a Google Chrome extension on your browser. (Naturally, it’s included by default in Chrome.) Alternatively, Google suggests using the keyboard commands. So why do the keyboard commands work when the context menu will not?

Copy Paste Google Docs Plugin Warning
Kevin Convery / Android Authority

The answer has to do with the fact that Google Docs is an online app. That means it’s a website, and all browsers are built so websites do not have the ability to read from your clipboard. They can write to it, so the Copy or Cut commands will work. But without the Chrome extension in your browser (which Google designed to get around this exact problem), you cannot paste. Your keyboard commands, though, are provided by your computer’s OS, and not by the website. This is why they work when the online commands, which look identical, will not. This is another reason to stick with the keyboard commands—one less browser extension to install.

The menu bar

The third way to copy and paste in Google Docs is the traditional menu bar that runs along the top of the page. The Edit menu is the one that contains the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands. But notice that the menu bar is also part of the online interface. This means the clipboard situation we discussed in the previous section still applies. If you try to paste from this menu, you will receive the notice about needing to install the Chrome plug-in or use the keyboard commands.

Copy Paste Google Docs Menu Bar
Kevin Convery / Android Authority


Google designed the extension for Chrome, which it owns. It then built versions for other browsers, so everyone can use Google’s online apps.

Any app that requires access to your clipboard, which is a lot of them, will require this plug-in.

Yes, you can. You can also download it as a PDF, as a Web page, or as plain text.

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