I observed that MacOSX finder does not have a Cut option (or shortcut Command+X) to move the contents. Is there a reason for removing this option? Does it improve usability in any way?

  • 23
    Actually Mac OS X 10.7 does have Cut & Paste option. Command + C to copy then Command + Option + V to paste. The original source file will disappear. But this command isn't listed under the Edit menu. So it's still a secret to many people.
    – Jung Lee
    Jul 18, 2012 at 2:48
  • woah...i had no idea that is how it worked :D ! You just blew my mind, I wonder why it's so hidden. Aug 28, 2013 at 17:16
  • Why is this question closed as opinion based?
    – bobbyalex
    Jun 18, 2014 at 9:10
  • Meta discussion about this question - meta.ux.stackexchange.com/questions/1643/…
    – JonW
    Jun 18, 2014 at 9:47
  • @JungLee technically that isn't Cut & Paste though, it's Copy & Move Here. :)
    – Hakanai
    Sep 19, 2017 at 23:50

6 Answers 6


What Apple decided to do with the "Cut and Paste" procedure in Windows is simply to combine them into one action, Move.


  • drag = move
  • option+drag=copy

With OSX the user applies direct manipulation by dragging a file or a group of files between folders, rather than selecting and cutting them out into some virtual un-graspable medium.

Whether it improves the usability is up to the individual user as I see it, if you like moving files around using nothing but keyboard shortcuts then the Apple approach will not be suitable for you. However, I would argue that it improves the transparency of the action by making the process easier to understand and follow for the novice user.

  • 8
    hmm another reason not to use a Mac then? Who decided that direct manipulation was mutually exclusive with the ability to use the keyboard to achieve the same? I avoid mouse (or touch) usage and use they keyboard. It would be extremely inconvenient not to be able to move files using the keyboard... Jul 18, 2012 at 5:54
  • 1
    Good observation, but what's weird is that it behaves inconsistently when moving between different mounted volumes: then a drag&drop results in a copy instead of a move.
    – user12741
    Mar 3, 2013 at 13:25
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    @VincentvanScherpenseel this is probably to enforce a backup habit ie. if you're putting important documents on your USB stick, there should still also be a copy available on your mac.
    – Adam-E
    Mar 4, 2013 at 11:06
  • 1
    @VincentvanScherpenseel that's true on most OS platforms. Moving a file to another volume is physically a copy. Moving in the same volume is a change of file indicator.
    – Reactgular
    Aug 27, 2013 at 9:34
  • The reason this also breaks it because I actually can cut text using the CMD+X > CMD+V shortcuts. If this was consistent I would have only needed to learn it once. Now it's just confusing and most people don't know how to do it with files. Aug 28, 2013 at 22:15

Mac does support Copy as well as Cut as explained above. The only difference is how they are perceived.

On Windows and other environments, users need to decide before taking an action whether they want to copy content or move content. Paste is a simple activity that depends on the previous action taken. It has a usability flaw which is evident in an example where user chose to copy - now if he wants to move content instead of copy, they have to go back and cut the content to be able to move it.

Unlike this action based task-flow, Mac has taken the route of cognition based task flow. They do not have separate action keys for copy and cut, rather they are more task based - copy and move. So a single action to copy brings the item to your clipboard (think of it as picking the item from your container). Now while taking the action of putting it into some other container, the user can decide whether he wants to drop that item in new container or simple place a copy of the picked item in new container while putting the original item back in its parent container.

This has made Macs more usable since now users dont have to decide at the time to selecting an item whether they want to copy or move. Rather while dropping the item they have the choice to make. Thereby users dont have to go back and forth to change their decision. This is specially true because typically files lie in different folders and if one changes their mind between copy and move, they have to do lot of traversing among the source and destination folders.

So Mac has implemented Copy and Move in more understandable format whereas other OSs have taken the route of forcing users to make that choice first by making copy and move explicit by using actions like copy and paste.

There are 2 things that works against the usage style of Mac though: 1. The action to put into clipboard is called copy which might be confusing as Copy usually means creating a copy of the item. So the actual usage is not same as what the label would mean. 2. Move functionality is hidden in keyboard shortcuts and not evident to the users. Only advanced users or users who have taken the pain to learn the keyboard shortcuts for various tasks on Mac would know that such a functionality exists. A beginner user would simply assume that such an important functionality is completely missing on Mac. Infact, the option to Move doesn't even exists in Edit menu of Finder thereby hiding it completely from the user.

  • 1
    may i know the hidden shortcut for MOVE ? Feb 29, 2016 at 5:39
  • 1
    @preetam While pasting the item, click on 'Option' button to enable Move. Apr 18, 2016 at 7:33
  • It is in the menu, if you're looking at the menu while holding option.
    – Hakanai
    Sep 19, 2017 at 23:54

In addition to the cut and paste option mentioned above, you can also right-click to cut and paste. As you can see from the screencap there are both cut and past options. Cut will dim the text of an icon until it is pasted elsewhere, at which time it moves the item to the new location.

enter image description here

Dim text indicates the item has been cut.

enter image description here

  • 5
    I think that you installed a custom Finder plugin (such as TotalFinder) and then forgot. None of the Finder versions (including the one in the recently released El Capitan) have this option. Oct 12, 2015 at 15:10

One improvement to usability is that users are less likely to cut a file and then forget to paste them somewhere, which resulted in deleting files when the user clearly did not want to delete their files. The cut & paste mechanism was broken, because it made it too easy to loose data because of a somewhat hidden UI limitation.

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    In Windows, if you "cut" a file and do not paste, it is not deleted. Preventing the "cut" operation does not improve the usability in this respect any more than allowing it.
    – mawcsco
    Jul 17, 2012 at 15:13
  • 1
    it's hard to explain usability drawbacks when you're not on the neutral side. As to me (possibly, quite a usual case) I had been a win-user for about 10 years and after moving on mac those actions copy+paste vs cut+paste was a challenge for me for about a year
    – shershen
    Jul 17, 2012 at 16:44
  • I never use 'cut' for exactly the reason given in the answer. The phone goes halfway through the operation; you close the file down. And then find ooops - you've lost a big chunk of the document.
    – PhillipW
    Jul 18, 2012 at 9:33
  • mawcsco is right. the data isn't lost, if you cut something out it's just perceived as being taken out the folder. The file isn't removed until it has created in the new folder. Jul 18, 2012 at 10:13
  • 1
    -1 This is totally not the way Cut works on Windows.
    – Boris
    Mar 3, 2013 at 12:30

Any feature, in order to exist, needs to be implemented. So the only real answer to this question is: 'Cut file' does not exist, because it has never been implemented.

And no, the other two answers are not correct, and any answer I've read wasn't convincing either.

This is a feature that:

  • Will not let you accidentally delete a file.
  • Will not prevent you to drag-move a file.
  • Does not clutter the interface
  • Adds one different and convenient method of doing file move that does not require having both folders opened on the screen.
  • Wrong. As @Jung-Lee states above, this has been implemented since OS X 10.7: "Command + C to copy then Command + Option + V to paste. The original source file will disappear. But this command isn't listed under the Edit menu." Oct 12, 2015 at 15:12

I've read a similar discussion on the (old) one button Apple mouse approach and the multi button Windows mouse approach...

"Apple's one button mouse is better and less complicated because it is 'cognition' based".

Apple's approach to cut, paste and move to me feels belittling-ly oversimplified. If Apple instead of God would have designed mankind we would have one arm instead of the hard-to-track-and-keep-in-mind two.


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