How to select, copy, and paste text in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2020
Apple has improved the ways you can quickly select, copy, and paste text, but the new gestures take some learning -- especially if you regularly used the previous ones.

It's a bit cramped, but we're using the new three-finger gesture to copy selected text
It's a bit cramped, but we're using the new three-finger gesture to copy selected text


There's no question, Apple has made text selection and editing faster and better with iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. With a series of simple gestures and taps, you can now rapidly copy and paste text, and undo or redo what you've done.

Only, if you were used to how to do it before, it's best now to unlearn the old gestures and learn the new ones instead. They're good, but they're sufficiently different that it's frustrating. Plus these new gestures may work fine on an iPad, but they are cramped on an iPhone.

Unlearning the past

Maybe the most common text change you ever want to make is to back up a word or three and fix a single-letter typo. Previously, you could hold down your finger for a moment, then swipe to where you wanted to go. The cursor would move with you, and you'd be done.

This is still possible, but timing is harder. Since a touch will now select a word, you need tap and move your finger at just the right speed.

You do get used to it, but you may not need to as there's a new method.

Press and hold on the spacebar to get the trackpad-like display (center) and move your cursor around
Press and hold on the spacebar to get the trackpad-like display (center) and move your cursor around


Press and hold on the spacebar. When you do this, the keyboard letters disappear and instead you effectively have a trackpad. Then you can move the cursor around as you need, and tap when it's where you want.

It's not as good as the older tap and drag, though, because your range of movement is limited. And any time you take your finger off this trackpad-like part of the screen, it resets to being a keyboard again.

Best of the new

Tap on a word, just as if you were still going to move the cursor the old way, and you'll find that you've just highlighted the word. When that's what you want, it's much faster than it was before. Plus, you can press for a moment to select that word, then just swipe around the screen. Swipe down or up to extend a selection in that direction, or reverse it to deselect.

You can quickly tap to select one word, one sentence or one paragraph.
You can quickly tap to select one word, one sentence or one paragraph.


Plus, instead of dragging, the older way of tapping to select words has been extended. You tap and hold for a moment to select one word, but you can also tap twice to do the same thing slightly faster. Or tap three times to select an entire sentence, four times to select the whole paragraph.

It would be good to be able to tap five times and select the whole document but, as yet, you can't. Select All may be when you press and hold because it can be in the popup menu that appears. However, it's inconsistent and also depends on the app you're using.

Select few

Once you've selected something, you most often want to copy it. And every time you copy something, you surely want to paste it somewhere else.

Now with the text you want selected, tap three fingers on the glass and pinch in. You'll see a pop up saying "Copy," and that's what you've just done.

Next, move your cursor to another document, or part of this document, and now pinch out with three fingers. You'll paste the copied text in.

It's meant to be as if you're picking up the thing you want to copy, and you're dropping it back wherever you want it pasted.

When you do this, though, you also get a pop up menu with options such as copy, paste and undo. It's handy when, for instance, you actually want to cut instead of copy. But it does mean you're tempted to simply tap the buttons instead of pinch in and out.

When you use the new gestures, iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 show you a description of what you've done -- or offers you controls to do more.
When you use the new gestures, iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 show you a description of what you've done -- or offers you controls to do more.

Do that again

The new gestures that will take you the most time to become familiar with, especially on the smaller screen of an iPhone, are the Undo and Redo ones. To undo something, make a three-finger swipe to the left. So that's pressing any three fingers onto the glass and immediately swiping to your left. To redo that thing, use a three-finger swipe to the right.

It sounds simple. And once you've got used to it, it's not only simple, it is vastly preferable to the old system where you had to physically shake your iPhone to undo.

But you will need to build up the muscle memory of how exactly to tap and swipe with three fingers. That's especially true on a smaller iPhone where you'll need to cramp up your fingers to so that you can register the tap and swipe on that screen.

Almost familiar

If you regularly select several images at once in your Photos app, you'll know that you can tap to select the first and then just run your finger over the rest. Now you can do something similar in other parts of iOS and iPadOS, too.

In a mailbox within Mail, tap two fingers and immediately swipe down. You'll select each email as you go.

Our favorite

You can tell us that we should use a database instead of forcing a spreadsheet to do what it's not built for, but we've all got sheets we've grown over the years. And if there is anything they have in common, it's that they're long. Previously, it was in the lap of the Apple gods whether you opened a spreadsheet and were at the end, or back at the start.

Now, once you've started scrolling, and the little scroll icon is there on the right of your screen, you can grab and drag it to the bottom.

We might grumble about relearning how to move the cursor, and we might frown at cramping our fingers together, but that new scroll option is a blessing.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    Non-intuitive UI features are helpful for pros, but increase the learning curve for new users. I’d like to hear experiences of people brand new to Apple to see how easy they think the UI is nowadays.
    seanj
  • Reply 2 of 33
    I‘m falling in love with my old mouse and hardware keyboard again.

    The new autocorrect is even worse.
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 3 of 33
    I wonder if it conflicts with Zoom accessibility feature.
  • Reply 4 of 33
    uraharaurahara Posts: 587member
    Non-intuitive UI features are helpful for pros, but increase the learning curve for new users. I’d like to hear experiences of people brand new to Apple to see how easy they think the UI is nowadays.
    It's like the shortcuts on the PC. Until you learn them, they are useless. But on PC the shortcuts often shown in the menu. On the mobile device you really have to know or discover it by chance. But you can't just make new features all easily accessible - the screen size limits it. So the features need to be hidden - gestures. And you have to learn them.
    StrangeDaysSpamSandwichjony0
  • Reply 5 of 33
    Omg this has been driving me crazy trying to edit words or place the cursor in between letters because it select the whole sentence instead of allowing me to correct a word!
    jeffharrisanantksundaramSpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 33
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,117member
    One annoying thing is when you select the cursor with your finger, and move it between two characters, lift your finger, and it moves somewhere else. Sometimes just one character, but sometimes a lot further, seemingly randomly. The trick, and it’s a bit of a pain, is to be careful to lift your finger vertically. If you move it even a tiny bit as you lift, as your finger lifts for a moment, it’s still touching the screen as your flattened finger pad rounds up as pressure is removed, and it is interpreted as a move. This always happened, but it’s seemingly worse now with the extra feature. Apple has to figure out how to sense this and disregard it.
    anantksundaramminicoffeeSpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 33
    laytechlaytech Posts: 240member
    Tap three times or four does not work in mail the most used app when editing text, but as the article says it works in other apps so its definitely not consistent. What I am would really like to see are two things:

    1. Ability to copy and paste text and remove the formatting. Often in mail you cannot tell if the formatting is the same but when the customer receives the email the fonts are totally different. To get around this, I have to paste into message app to strip out the formatting and copy back into the email.

    2. Why oh why when you send an email from mail whether on a Mac or iPhone or any apple mail device does it attached multiple files of no relevance? Send an email to Outlook from Apple mail and you get multiple useless files attached. Because of this, I use Outlook on my Macs.

    Welcome others thoughts on the above.
  • Reply 8 of 33
    laytech said:

    2. Why oh why when you send an email from mail whether on a Mac or iPhone or any apple mail device does it attached multiple files of no relevance? Send an email to Outlook from Apple mail and you get multiple useless files attached. Because of this, I use Outlook on my Macs.
    I send emails from iOS Mail app frequently, I have not seen any useless files attached to them automatically.
    jeffharriscy_starkman
  • Reply 9 of 33
    Gods, if ever there was an article that needed a video to go along with it, then this was it.
    jeffharriskuraiminicoffee
  • Reply 10 of 33
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,404member
    I find the new selection gesture pretty intuitive compared to the old way of trying to drag tiny handles around. One tip: if the tap-and-drag doesn’t work on the first go, tap (once) away from the line you’re trying to select, and give it another go. This works like a charm on the rare occasion that the selection didn’t work the first time.

    I second the call for a video, though, it would help those stuck in the old habits to catch on faster.
    jony0
  • Reply 11 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    roxsocks said:
    Gods, if ever there was an article that needed a video to go along with it, then this was it.
    Eventually.
    gumashow
  • Reply 12 of 33
    The new method stinks.  It constantly selects words or sentences when I want to move the cursor to make a change.  
    Niallivmjeffharrisanantksundaram
  • Reply 13 of 33
    Apple’s new implementation for these actions is partially successful, partially a failure.
    jeffharrisanantksundaramcy_starkman
  • Reply 14 of 33
    One of the things that applies in many cases is that what used to require a hold now requires a tap. It was frustrating at first. One of my first thoughts after moving up to iPadOS 13 is that this is the first version that needs an instruction manual in order to understand and use.
    Kaffeesegler
  • Reply 15 of 33
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 338member
    I knew all these shortcuts from watching keynotes. It felt as if this information was old and I have always used it this way. One shortcut copy and paste with 3 fingers, pinch in and pinch out is great on iPod not so much on iPhone.
  • Reply 16 of 33
    Omg this has been driving me crazy trying to edit words or place the cursor in between letters because it select the whole sentence instead of allowing me to correct a word!
    Me too.  So much so I thought it was a bug.
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 17 of 33
    It’s remarkable how every single design change Apple makes makes it harder for disabled people to use. This is ridiculous like all else they appear to have updated, and then they have the audacity to claim that they care about their disabled customers with their “accessibility“ features.
    anantksundaramSpamSandwich
  • Reply 18 of 33
    I wonder if it conflicts with Zoom accessibility feature.
    I thought about this and it shouldn’t in voice over but might in zoom.. If you have voice over on a three finger triple tap turns on screen curtain so it could happen by accident but only if VO is turned in. 

    Zoom is different. If you three finger double tap zoom is turned on. Maybe it is intuitive to know if you are editing text and go to cut, copy, paste if you are typing. 

    Edit: just checked and nope. With zoom on it will activate the accessibility feature. 
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,316administrator
    serina said:
    It’s remarkable how every single design change Apple makes makes it harder for disabled people to use. This is ridiculous like all else they appear to have updated, and then they have the audacity to claim that they care about their disabled customers with their “accessibility“ features.
    This has not been my disabled wife's experience. If there's something that's changed that's negatively impacting your usability, tell Apple!
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 20 of 33
    The new method stinks.  It constantly selects words or sentences when I want to move the cursor to make a change.  
    It’s more that it changed than it stinks. With 3D Touch gone I had to have a learning curve also when I got my  iPhone 11 Pro
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