Computer basics are easy for those who have been using the computer their whole lives. Some of us, however, struggle with the simplest of tasks because we have no innate understanding of how these tasks are accomplished.

If you are already comfortable with basic computer tasks, be sure to skim the articles anyway. I promise to put in a few advanced tips, as well.

Our first basic task will be a common computer task called Cut and Paste. Remember your first pair of scissors? Little tiny ones for little tiny fingers and rounded points for safety sake. Learning to cut along the edge was an early lesson in kindergarten. After cutting, you often pasted your picture or shape on another page. The computer world uses a very similar technique to move information from one location to another.

In the computer world, Cut and Paste and its good buddy Copy and Paste are functions that allow you to move or copy text, images, and even Web information from one location to another location. The Cut function removes the information from its original location, and Paste puts it someplace else. Using the Copy/Paste functions, you can copy information to a new location without removing it from the original location.

Let’s start with moving some text. Open your word processing program. Using your mouse, place the cursor at the beginning of the text you want to move so that you can highlight the text. Click and hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor to the end of the text that you want to move. This will highlight (darken) the text. You now have several ways to cut the selection:

1)      Click on the Cut icon (the scissors) on the toolbar, or

2)      Select Cut from the Edit Menu at the top of the screen, or

3)      Press and hold down the Ctrl key and press the X key at the
same time**, or

The text will disappear.

** In all instances, Mac users will use the Command (Apple) key rather than the CTRL key

After you have cut the text, place your cursor at the location where you want the text to be displayed. Again, there are several choices to "paste" the text:

1)      Click on the Paste icon (the clipboard on the toolbar), or

2)      Select Paste from the Edit Menu at the top of the screen, or

3)      Press and hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the V key at
the same time.

Any of these three choices will "paste" the selection in the new location.

If you want to copy some text and place it in another location, select the text as mentioned above. To copy:

1)      Click on the Copy icon (the two pieces of paper on the
toolbar), or

2)      Select Copy from the Edit Menu at the top of the page, or

3)      Press and hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the C key at
the same time.

To Paste a copy of the text into a new location, follow the Paste directions above.


If you are ready to Cut or Copy and you find that you cannot click on the cut or copy icon because it is grayed out, it means that you do not have anything highlighted. When nothing is highlighted, the Scissors (Cut) icon and the Paper (Copy) icon will be light gray in color, which indicates they are currently unavailable. Press the left mouse button and run your mouse across some text to highlight it, and you will see both icons brighten and become active.

Working with Images

Did I say images? Can you really Copy and Paste images and pictures? The answer is emphatically YES. It is possible to Cut/Copy/Paste images. When working in a word processing document or another similar application program, you can simply click on an image to choose it and then copy or paste it, just as you would text. When you are on the Internet, it is even easier. You can simply right-click on any image and select Copy from the pop-up menu. Or you can right-click the image and select Save Picture (Image) As.

A quick tip: If you use the Save Picture As option, be sure you name the graphic and be careful to place it in a folder that you can easily locate in the future. If you have a My Pictures folder, that is a good spot.

A Great Shortcut

Have you found an entire document or maybe Web page that you would like to copy or move? Click your mouse anywhere in the document or Web page, then go to the Edit menu and choose Select All. Select All is a very helpful feature that can save you much time and energy. When using Select All, the computer will do the highlighting work for you and highlight the entire document or Web page. This saves you from having to run your cursor over the entire page to highlight it. You can then follow the usual steps to copy and paste the complete selection in another document. Guess what? If you are on the Internet, you can copy the complete page-- text, hot links, and images as well.

Advanced Tip

When working with newer versions of Microsoft Word, you can also save the text on a web page without all the tables, links, and graphics. Simply copy the information you want from the Web. Click on Edit from the Word menu, then choose Paste Special. Highlight Unformatted Text and click on OK. The text will be pasted without any formatting.

Very Valuable Skill

Even though its name may have brought back memories of a kindergarten assignment, Cut/Copy/Paste is a very valuable computer skill. I’m sure you will agree with me that mastering this basic skill of copying and moving text and graphics will make your computing more productive.