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Cut, Copy, Paste, Select All in Android 5.0 “Lollipop” [Beginners Guide]

Over the weekend, as I was slaving away in the kitchen doing my breakfast chef thang, my wife sat playing with our son on the floor, trying to figure out how to copy an RMLS listing number from an email into a web browser on her Nexus 5. Since I do tasks like that all of the time, I shouted from across the room, “It’s the card-stacked looking icon to copy!” That description made little sense to her, because well, it’s not actually a great description, so I ended up walking away from my sizzling bacon for a few minutes to help her figure it out. We walked through the process, to which she said two things – “What are all these silly icons?” and “How is anyone supposed to know that that is what they do?” I really had no response, other than, “You are right. I could see how those could be confusing.” And with that, the inspiration for this post! 

Back in 2012, Google introduced new cut, copy, paste, select all buttons with Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. We wrote up a similar post to this at that time, but thought a refresher was in-store to make sure everyone knows how to do something that should be simple, like cut, copy, paste, or select all, on your phone.

So for those who don’t know, this is what the new cut, copy, paste, and select all buttons look like in Android 5.0 “Lollipop.”

cut copy paste lollipop2

cut copy paste lollipop3

  • Select All:  The square with the square-ish arrangement of dots around it (far left icon), is your Select All button. Why on Earth that symbolizes selecting all is beyond me, but that’s what it is.
  • Cut:  The scissor icon is the Cut button. Makes sense, right?
  • Copy:  The “card-stacked” icon, as I called it, or the icon that is showing two of something, as if you just copied it, is the Copy button.
  • Paste:  The button on the far right is for Paste, and that makes sense because it is mimicking a clipboard.

Pro tip:  Long pressing on any action bar icon will help to identify them by popping up a text bar describing the action. Should you forget what each button does and not have time to find this post, remember this.

  • This is very Good information.. Really very Nice.. Useful Information Thanks.

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  • Jaiff

    How can i copy a phone number from recent phonebook

  • ttnyny

    I have a Nexus 5 running Lollipop and I can’t get the copy feature to function. I highlight the text then press the “stacked cards” icon but when I try to paste, there’s nothing in the clipboard. I have tried short and long presses on the copy icon, and it does not make a difference.

    The feature worked until the Lollipop upgrade a few months ago.

    Am I missing something? Thanks.

  • Great Steps.. Wonderful Information Lollipop OS Beginners.. Thanks for sharing..

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  • risky wahyu nugroho

    thanks for the tips. it really helps

    android tips

  • Rob

    Paste doesn’t make sense to be a clipboard… if that clipboard icon pulled up, you know, your CLIPBOARD with all of the stuff you copied/cut since the phone was rebooted or whatever, would make much more sense. But I’m surprised “copy” would confuse anyone since it totally makes sense to me since day 1.

  • Simon Belmont

    Another trick I believe that works: You can select a single word by double-tapping it, and you can actually hold the word and move it around in a sentence or something.

    I remember being able to do that before, at least. It’s useful for word processing.

  • Simon Belmont

    I knew about the press to reveal tool-tip text thing. I think that’s been around since at least Jelly Bean (maybe ICS).

    Nice write-up, though. A lot of people are befuddled by Android’s copy and paste implementation, for some reason (it’s WAY better than it was in the pre-Gingerbread days)

  • Guest

    Little known tip: you can long-press the icons on buttons in nearly any app and a pop up with briefly show what they are.

    Try it. It’s pretty useful, especially for someone who doesn’t know what the icon is supposed to mean.

    • Simon Belmont

      Yup. That was mentioned above, dude.

      It is useful, though. I’ll grant you that.

  • Miles Prower

    Another pro tip: When the cursor “handle” (the blue teardrop thingie below the blinking vertical line) is showing, and you’ve got something in your clipboard, you can tap the “handle” and a “paste” button will appear.

  • sc0rch3d

    highlighting is the hardest part for me. In Windows, I love double click to get 1 word and tripleclick for the whole line or paragraph.

  • Rob S

    I think the ‘select all’ icon resembles an icon or the content (square in the center) and the squares on the outside represent the dotted-line selection rectangle tool you have many programs (like Photoshop) and older Windows versions (before Vista or XP I believe)

    • Cory

      I’ve always referred to the dotted-line-like-squares surrounding selected content as “marching ants.” As you said, in older programs like Photoshop, those dotted lines or dashes were usually animated and appeared to rotate in a certain direction, and as such, sort of looked like marching ants.

      • Rob S

        I’ve looked up the name afterwards, commonly it is referred to as ‘marching ants’ or ‘marquinee’

    • Simon Belmont

      I think Select All would look better if it was a rectangle instead of a square. A rectangle reminds me more of a piece of paper or page in a book and selecting all should select everything on that page.

      The square makes it slightly confusing, but not horribly so. I think it looked slightly better in KitKat, to be honest.

  • Aldrin Tauro

    That Select All button always gets me.

  • Cole Walter Tague

    The Google keyboard needs to take so key lessons from Swype. Like shortcuts to select all, cut, copy and paste. That could majoraly improve the Google keyboard. Anyone else have any thoughts or comments on that?

  • MichaelSammler

    I have always assumed everything is going to go to icons so that things can be distributed internationally much easier. I don’t like it. I never new what select all was till this article.
    BUT, my fiance is Japanese and I am American and we both got Nesux 5 phones. She shows me how to use my camera and I show her how to add ringtones. My phone is in English, and hers Japanese. But it is pretty easy when all the icons mach up.

  • Patrick Smithopolis

    I still pause for a second or two when selecting one of icons just to make sure I pick the right one. This is coming from someone who uses the copy and paste function frequently. Why doesn’t Google just spell it out instead of using the icons?

    • Boomdizzle

      Lots of trial and error, but I think I have it almost down Pat. Lol.

  • ZachGalifianakis’sBeard

    With all the improvements in Lollipop I hoped that improving the selecting/copying/pasting process would be one of them. Trying to copy multiple lines of text and moving the selector(s) to an exact point is not an easy task. Also, not having a delete button makes a challenge out of deleting a character in front of your cursor. I’m using Pure Shamu and the new scrolling arrows in the nav bar help but there is more work to be done to make such a basic task easier.

  • Neel

    I liked the icons on kitkat better

    • Cole Walter Tague

      Aren’t they the same? I’m on KitKat right now and I was just comparing. What’s different

      • Neel

        Just slight differences. The lollipop icons are more rounded. I like the sharp corners of the icons in kitkat and the small extra details inside the clipboard and copy icon

  • tiev

    Never did think about it but it makes sense…

    First Icon represents a selection box surrounding the entire box. In short, selecting all of the box
    Scissors are used to cut hence cut.
    There are 2 rectangles so this is duplication or copy
    Clipboards have been used for paste since who knows when so we just have to persume it is so… (does anyone know why a clipboard means paste?)

    My guess is that copy to clipboard so clipboard is what you would “paste from”

    • Simon Belmont

      Yup. As far as I know, most of those icon ideas are borrowed from icons in Windows or other OS.

      And, yes, the clipboard means you’re pasting what’s on the clipboard to wherever you want. Or, so, that’s what it’s trying to represent graphically.

  • philnolan3d

    As for “select all” the dots are similar to a marquee selection like you would do in Photoshop or selecting files in Windows. And of course they are surrounding all of the square inside.

  • Xious

    If I were to guess, the “Select All” button mimics the dashed line that usually surrounds an item when you select it. So when you select everything, it has a dashed line surrounding everything.

    I wish they had a text label option like they do in Gmail. Some people just don’t want to remember what icon means what.

  • Dave

    When would I want to cut something? I copy and paste all the time…just never have done it.

    • Erick Wright

      Cut is good you want to make something disappear from its current location… saving you a time from going back and pressing delete

    • MichaelSammler

      I use cut and paste in google docs all the time, but I am using a keyboard and tablet. I sometimes decide to rearage what I am wrting so cut and paste saves a lot of rewrite time.
      On my phone, I might use cut and paste if I put someones address under phone or something and I need to move the info to a new location.

  • ASV505

    Nice write up. Thanks

    • michael arazan

      Couple more years and hopefully he’ll be writing “My First Android” article for kids to explore their first device.

  • rsavaiano

    Is there a way to format text like on iOS? I know on iPhone you can italicize, bold and underline text within certain apps. Have never been sure if this was available on Android as well.

    • I have never seen it.

    • philnolan3d

      Depends on the app. Certainly word processors can do it. Of course Google+ has *bold*, -strikethrough-, and _italic_. And of course that means that YouTube has that as well now.

      • rsavaiano

        How do you access that in the Google+ app? Can’t seem to figure it out.

        • MichaelSammler

          It is not a menu item. You actually add the marks, but when you post, it changes whatever is within the marks .
          So, put something in between two * and it becomes bold when you post.
          *bold*

  • LionStone

    Hopefully you didn’t burn the bacon!! 😉