How to start copying and pasting between your Mac and iPad using Universal Clipboard

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in macOS
For occasions where there's a need to copy text from an iPad browser window to a word processor on a nearby Mac and other similar situations, Apple implemented the Universal Clipboard to make the process as easy as copying and pasting. This AppleInsider guide tells you how to turn on this highly useful Continuity function.




Introduced as part of Apple's Continuity features, the Universal Clipboard is an essential function that allows you to easily transfer text, images, and other items between devices in the macOS and iOS ecosystem. Once enabled, it allows users to move content from one device to another, using existing copy and paste commands.

While Handoff, another Continuity function, enables for an app's data to transfer seamlessly between devices to allow users to continue their work with minimal disruption, the Universal Clipboard is a simpler function that just transfers content selected by the user, which can be used in a completely different application on its destination device.

Basic requirements

Enabling Universal Clipboard follows the same process as setting up Handoff, and is restricted to the same set of requirements to run Continuity at all. Apple has published a list of devices that support the different Continuity features, which for older iPhones, iPads, and Mac systems may be worth examining.

For macOS, it basically boils down to any MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and iMac made since 2012, the Early 2015 or newer MacBook, and the Late 2013 Mac Pro. Universal Clipboard requires macOS Sierra or later to run, but users wanting to transfer files between Macs using Universal Clipboard need both to run on macOS High Sierra.

On the iOS side, Universal Clipboard can be used on an iPhone 5, fourth-generation iPad, the iPad Air, iPad mini 2, sixth generation iPod touch and newer hardware, as well as all models of iPad Pro, running iOS 10 or later.

Setting up: Mac

First, ensure you are signed into iCloud, using the same Apple ID as other devices you wish to use Universal Clipboard on. On the Mac, click the Apple Logo in the menu bar and go to System Preferences, then select iCloud.




If it is not already logged into an account, enter your Apple ID and password, then click Sign In. If it is already logged into an iCloud account, but not the one you wish to use across all devices, click Sign Out then log into the correct account.





Next, make sure Wi-Fi is turned on for the Mac, even if it is already connected to a wired connection. Within the System Preferences window, select Network, then Wi-Fi, and then Turn Wi-Fi On if it is switched off.

Note that there is no need to establish a Wi-FI connection for this to work, only for Wi-Fi to be turned on.




Bluetooth is also required to enable Universal Clipboard, though again it does not require an established Bluetooth connection to work. In the System Preferences window, select Bluetooth, and if it is not showing as on, select Turn Bluetooth On.




Lastly, to enable Universal Clipboard itself, access System Preferences again and select General. If it is not enabled already, click the checkbox next to "Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices."


Setting up: iPhone and iPad

For the iPhone and iPad, there are a similar set of items to enable, with all residing in the Settings app.

To check the iCloud account, tap the account name at the top of the left-hand menu, and check to see if iCloud is enabled.

If it is not logged in, iOS 10.3 or later users select Sign in to your iPhone or iPad, and enter your Apple ID and password, followed by the two-factor authentication if that is enabled. If it is not the right account, scroll to the bottom of the Apple ID page and select Sign Out, then log into the correct account.

Those on iOS 10.2 or earlier will have to go to the iCloud option within the Settings app and log in to their account from there.




To enable Wi-Fi, go to the Wi-Fi section in Settings and make sure it is toggled on. If you do not already have a connection to a Wi-FI network, now would be a good time to set one up, if you know the credentials to any of the access points listed on this page.




For Bluetooth, scroll down to Bluetooth, and set the toggle on.




Lastly, to enable Universal Clipboard, select General, followed by Handoff. Make sure the toggle within this section is on.




Using Universal Clipboard

The use of Universal Clipboard is almost exactly the same as if text or an image were to be copied from one application into another, except the entire process is split in two, with each half performed on different devices.

For copying on a Mac, highlight the text, image, video, or other content you want to transfer, and use your preferred copying technique. This can be done with the Command-C shortcut, right-clicking and selecting Copy, or by accessing Edit in the menu and selecting Copy.

To copy on an iPhone or iPad, highlight or select the item to copy, and then either press on the screen for a few seconds until the menu appears then select Copy, or choose an available copy command from within the currently-used application.

Once copied, the content is automatically transferred to the clipboard of other nearby devices logged into the same iCloud account, and with stay there for a short period of time, or until it is replaced by copying something else from one of the devices.

To paste in iOS, it's another long press on the screen until options appear, then select Paste. There may also be other paste commands, depending on the application.

For Mac-based pasting, select the area you want to put the copied content, and paste it in place. Again, this can be done using the keyboard shortcut Command-V, right-clicking and selecting Paste, or by selecting Edit then Paste from the menu.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    sreesree Posts: 104member
    Only problem, it rarely ever works. Frustrating actually. Have a Mac, iPhone and iPad.
    Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.
    london11SpamSandwichStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 15
    sree said:
    Only problem, it rarely ever works. Frustrating actually. Have a Mac, iPhone and iPad.
    Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.
    It works most of the time for me (between iPad and iPhone, I rarely try with my Mac) but when it doesn’t work there’s no obvious reason. I’ve checked to ensure everything is on the same Wi-Fi network, etc., but sometimes it just doesn’t go through.  Odd.

    Still, I’m glad the feature is there and I use it quite a bit.
  • Reply 3 of 15
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,129member
    It seems entirely bizarre this function wasn’t engineered to work over Bluetooth. What if iCloud isn’t available? 
    jony0
  • Reply 4 of 15
    glynhglynh Posts: 132member
    sree said:
    Only problem, it rarely ever works. Frustrating actually. Have a Mac, iPhone and iPad.
    Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.
    Reminds me a bit of Text Replacement (or what used to be called Keyboard Shortcuts) in that sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t with no reasonable rhyme or reason. We’ve come a long way from “It just works” haven’t we?
  • Reply 5 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,370member
    I'll echo the spotty reliability of this feature. And why does it require wifi and bluetooth? I often turn bluetooth off (or at least deactivate it from the control center,) as that seems to be the most reliable way of cutting a bluetooth connection. I'm wondering if that's one of the sources of poor reliability for people?

  • Reply 6 of 15
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,069member
    I gave up on this native feature because it seemed overly finicky and bought the Copied clipboard manager app that works all of the time and has a history list / stack. It works on iOS and MacOS and uses iCloud sync. 
    edited March 2018 jony0
  • Reply 7 of 15
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 442member
    dewme said:
    I gave up on this native feature because it seemed overly finicky and bought the Copied clipboard manager app that works all of the time and has a history list / stack. It works on iOS and MacOS and uses iCloud sync. 
    I agree, I have used Copied on all of my devices for more than a year without fail.   Very handy app.  

    I had a 2009 iMac that just wouldn't work with Universal Clipboard, which is why I purchased Copied.   But my new 2017 iMac does work with my 2013 MPP, iPad Pro and iPhone 7 -- but as noted Copied has a LOT more features.
    jony0
  • Reply 8 of 15
    chronartchronart Posts: 19member
    Couldn't get it to work at all between my iPhone X. and iMac.  I note the on the Mac in System Preferences/Network it says the iPhone has "No IP Address."  Don't know if that's the problem, or how to fix that.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,313member
    I use this feature quite a bit with pretty good reliability. Sometimes it takes a few seconds to send, but rarely have I had it just not work.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    firelockfirelock Posts: 151member
    Handoff works for me the vast majority of the time. I find it very nice to be able to copy on my iPad or Phone and then paste on my Mac. For example I may be editing a document on my iPad, copy some text and then paste it into the PowerPoint or Word file I have open on my Mac.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,313member
    firelock said:
    Handoff works for me the vast majority of the time. I find it very nice to be able to copy on my iPad or Phone and then paste on my Mac. For example I may be editing a document on my iPad, copy some text and then paste it into the PowerPoint or Word file I have open on my Mac.
    Last year we bought the flashlight division of a company. We got all their assets, sort of. The instruction manuals were all in pdf. Rather than retyping them I just used an ocr app on my iPhone, copied the generated text, pasted into notes, made corrections to any typos, then pasted into indesign. Copy paste worked pretty much flawlessly the whole time.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 12 of 15
    f1turbof1turbo Posts: 252member
    Remember way back when Mobile Me got so much grief because it didn't "just work?"  I think Mobile Me was more reliable than handoff.  
    willcropointkiltedgreen
  • Reply 13 of 15
    Another OSX fail... although I got hung with the very last step, checking the "Allow Handoff..." option in the General pane on the Mac side... that option does not even show for me. Everything else is exactly like you detailed. And I do have a need, heretofor handled by pasting into Notes on either my deltop or my tablet.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    When I got my new MacBook Pro at last I was able to use Continuity with my iPad Air ... for a while. It worked great at first, copying and pasting between devices beautifully. I’d browse a site in Safari on my iPad then pick up my Mac and there was the special Safari icon in the dock, I’d tap it and be back on the same page. It was all like magic.

    .. and then it all stopped working. I’ve checked and rechecked every setting but nothing. It’s a feature Apple make much of, but for me it no longer exists. I could take both devices to an Apple store I suppose but it’s quite a drive so I just try and forget that it’s even there. Big shame.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    jony0jony0 Posts: 269member
    emoeller said:
    dewme said:
    I gave up on this native feature because it seemed overly finicky and bought the Copied clipboard manager app that works all of the time and has a history list / stack. It works on iOS and MacOS and uses iCloud sync. 
    I agree, I have used Copied on all of my devices for more than a year without fail.   Very handy app.  

    I had a 2009 iMac that just wouldn't work with Universal Clipboard, which is why I purchased Copied.   But my new 2017 iMac does work with my 2013 MPP, iPad Pro and iPhone 7 -- but as noted Copied has a LOT more features.
    Thanks guys, just purchased both versions of Copied, looks very good and does a lot more than just 'handing off' to another platform. I was disappointed when this feature came out but didn't support my old iMac 2009. All good now.

    Added : I used to use the poor man's route and go through Notes. If your net access is zippy, it works quite well.
    edited March 2018
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