Tap and hold – it’s not a dance move, honest

By | July 11, 2016
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One of the things with tablets like the iPad and all the different Android based tablets is that there are loads of things they can do – but unless you know about it, you won’t know to try them.

I mean, on a PC, generally there are buttons on the screen. For example, if you’re using Microsoft Word, you’ll have options at the top giving you formatting options, page layout options and so on. Sometimes they might have funny little symbols on, like a B for the button that makes things bold or a tiny picture of three numbered lines for the button that makes a numbered list.

But there’s something to give you an idea of what they do. And you can always click on the button to try it and see what happens!

With tablets it’s not so obvious.

And the thing I wanted to mention today is one of these things – some people don’t even realise a tablet can do it.

It’s copy and paste – and it can be really useful.

You might have used it on a PC – it lets you copy text or pictures or anything else from one document to another – or to a different place in the same document. You could use it to reorder points in an email by copying the bit at the start to near the end instead. Or to copy some blurb about a hotel that you found on a website to an email you’re sending to a friend you’re going on holiday with. Or copy book titles, webpages or places you want to visit to a list you keep of books to read, places to visit or webpages to look at.

It can be useful for all sorts of things – I use it all the time. (I expect I’ll use it before I’ve finished typing this email!)

And to use copy and paste on a tablet, the easiest way is to use something called “tap and hold”.

Here’s how you do it on most tablets (and on a PC, for good measure):
First, you need to select the text or whatever you want. On a PC you usually click with the mouse at the start of what you want, hold down the mouse button and drag it to the other end, then let go. It sounds fiddly but once you’ve done it a couple of times it’s easier than it sounds.

On a tablet it’s a bit different. The way I do it is to tap on one of the words in the text I want and hold my finger down. The word should become highlighted and you get two little “flags” at each end of it (they’re usually blue). Then you can take your finger off and tap and drag one of the flags to the beginning of what you want and drag the other flag to the end of what you want. It’s one of those things that’s a bit hard to explain in words but you touch the screen and slide your finger as if you were literally dragging the flag across the screen.

You should end up with all the text you wanted now highlighted.

So that’s selected it – next you need to tell it that you want to copy it. Tap on the selected text and hold your finger down on the screen. Don’t just tap it once or it’ll stop being selected and you’ll have to start again.

Or on a PC the easiest way I think is to right click on the selected text and choose copy.

After a second or two you should get a little menu pop up – now you can take your finger off the screen. The menu will probably have several options – one should be copy. Tap that and it’ll copy that text. It hasn’t put it anywhere yet, just remembered it ready to “paste” it when you tell it where you want to put it.

So now you can go into an email or text document or whatever, find where you want to paste the text and again, tap the screen and hold your finger down (no need to select any text first this time). When the menu appears, this time you want the paste option – tap on that. Et voila! As if by magic, your text should appear. (on a PC, right click and choose paste instead.)

There are umpteen or more different ways you can use copy and paste, so it’s well worth knowing how it works – it’s the kind of thing where you don’t think of where you could use it until you’ve tried it out! The main thing to remember is you can copy and paste from and to almost all the different apps and you can use it for just a couple of words at once or for entire pages.

And now, having typed this up, I now need to copy it into my email program – using copy and paste just like as above!

12 thoughts on “Tap and hold – it’s not a dance move, honest

  1. Mavis Young

    At last, a dream come true. A subject that I have struggled with for months, now sheds some light on the dreaded COPY and PASTE.
    So thank you for this article Tim, its invaluable.



  2. Patricia Pritchard

    Thanks for this info. How does this work on an iPad to copy photo attachments from an email just to save them?

    1. Tim Post author

      It works a little bit differently – and it depends on whether you’re using the built in mail app or a different one, but in general you tap on the photo in the email and hold down. You should get a list of “share” options that would let you share it with other people by Facebook and so on – and one of those options should be to save it. Tap on that one and there you go.
      Hope that helps.

  3. Ken Beech

    Doesn’t work like this on an Apple tablet. Not certain yet how to do it properly, but the “book of words” should help.

    1. Tim Post author

      Hmm – that’s odd. It should do. It might be to do with exactly how long you hold your finger down after you tap – maybe try holding a bit longer or if that doesn’t work a bit shorter…

  4. Diane

    Wow thank you I really found this interesting as I was trying to do this the other day. Tried it and it works a treat

  5. Judith Houghton

    Thank you Tim! I had wondered how to make my iPad do this – and now I know. Wonderful.

  6. Catherine Renfrey

    Thank you Tim, very useful. Have printed it off and the page aout the Function Keys on a desktop. Great thank you

  7. Tim Post author

    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone – glad it’s been useful!

  8. Robert Heak

    Tim Is there any way of getting into Documents, Libeary and the like from the iPad.

    1. Tim Post author

      Not really – the ipad stores things quite differently so doesn’t have a “file manage” built in in the same way as Windows. Generally you can only get at the files through the apps that use them.
      It’s also possible to plug your iPad into a PC and see some files across the cable (you use the cable that came with it, without one end pulled out of the mains plug on the end). This lets you see pictures, videos and some other bits and pieces but not everything.
      Having said that, there are some file manager programs on the iStore that say they’ll do something similar – I’ve never tried them out so I don’t know how well they work, but for example something like https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/file-manager-free/id479295290?mt=8 might do what you’re after.


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