Moving and Copying in Windows

Many Windows applications and utilities allow you to move or copy selected objects using drag and drop. For example, with the Windows Explorer it is possible to move a file from one directory to another simply by selecting it and the dragging whilst the mouse button is held down. The file will be moved (or copied) to the directory the mouse pointer is over when the button is released.

The problem with this technique is in ensuring that the correct action occurs. Taking the Explorer example above the file will be moved if the final destination is on the same drive as the files original location. But a copy will be created if the source and destination drives are different. This is fine if this is what you intended but what if you wish to move from one disk to another, or create a copy in another directory on the same disk?

Fortunately it is easy to override the default behaviour with the keyboard. To force a move operation hold down the Shift key until the mouse button is released. To force a copy hold down the Ctrl key instead. When a copy is going to be made the mouse pointer will include a small + sign to distinguish it from a move operation.

An easy way to remember these keyboard overrides is:-

  • The key lets you shift (or move) an object.

  • The key starts with a C, and C is for Copy.

These keyboard tricks will also work with most common applications. For example when copying blocks of text in Microsoft Word, or a selected block of cells (or worksheets) in Microsoft Excel.

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