Cut and paste comes to the Mac

Well, OK, the title’s a little misleading, but here’s a very handy hint for anyone running Lion or later. It’s to do with moving files.

Though the Finder has, for a very long time, supported the copying and pasting of files from one folder to another, it has never allowed cut and paste. I could never fathom why something so simple wasn’t in there until I realised that, actually, there is a problem with implementing the concept cleanly: normally, when you cut things, they disappear. What happens if you cut a file but never paste it? Especially accidentally? (What happens on Windows? I forget…)

Still, this was an annoying omission, particularly if you’re used to Windows, or if you have a small display without much space for dragging things about.

Well, now you can do it. Instead of the normal cut & paste keystrokes (Cmd-X, Cmd-V) you do a copy and a kind of alternate paste (Cmd-C, Alt-Cmd-V). Intuitive? No. But I guess it makes a kind of sense.

Thanks to the excellent David Sparks for the hint.


In Windows file explorer the cut files go pale until pasted. They return to normal saturation if the operation is cancelled. Cut’n’paste files has been in since at least ’95 and the alpha blend probably added in XP in 2001.

So if you cut a file, and then copy a paragraph in your text editor, does that re-saturate the file? Or is it a completely separate ‘clipboard’ that just uses the same keys?

And if they are separate, I wonder how long the file stays pale for if you don’t do anything with it? Until the end of your session, I guess.

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