An Explanation Of The Apple Mac Folder/File System

How To Paste An Apple Mac Folder Or Sub-Folder

To PASTE a folder and its contents (sub-folders and files) you must first either use the COPY function to get information about the selected folder and its contents into the computer's memory, as explained and exampled in the previous section, or drag the selected folder into another folder.

PASTE has two modes on OS X (Sierra): The first mode makes a copy of the selected folder and its contents (inherited from COPY) and puts that copy inside the computer's memory and the second mode moves (cuts) the selected folder and its contents (using the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item) from its main folder into the computer's memory. Once a copy of the selected folder and its contents are inside the computer's memory, regardless of mode used, the PASTE function (PASTE menu-item) can then transfer that memory copy into another folder - Into another folder on an hard drive, network drive or flash drive for example. You can also PASTE into a cloud-based folder or onto a floppy disk if you wish.

In this section I will show you how to PASTE a folder (or sub-folder) and its contents into another folder, on various devices, using the traditional methods. Before I show you those PASTE methods though you first need to COPY a selected folder. For these examples I will be using (COPYing) the Cooking folder, so begin by selecting it and then COPYing it as shown in the previous section (see Fig 1.0 below). Remember, the Cooking folder has three sub-folders inside it - Cook Books, Ingredients and Recipes.

Fig 1.0  Select the Cooking folder, click on the ACTION menu and then click on the COPY "Cooking" menu-item.

When you have copied the selected Cooking folder into the computer's memory, using the COPY menu-item, you then need to choose a place to PASTE (transfer) it and its content into. For the first PASTE method I will choose my empty Flash Drive, which is opened by double clicking on its desktop icon or by clicking on its sidebar icon within the Finder application (Fig 1.1 below).

I have purposely formatted (erased/emptied the contents of) my flash drive and renamed it Storage in order to make the examples easier on the eye (no other folders and files confusing you) - Your flash drive might be named after its manufacturer (i.e. Kingston) or just be named Removable Disk. Regardless of its name though, make sure it's your flash drive that you are using.

Even though you can paste the selected folder and its contents into its same folder (i.e. paste into the DOCUMENTS folder) this is not normally done simply because the PASTE function will just create a copy of that selected folder in the same folder. In other words, it will paste Cooking into DOCUMENTS but name that second copy (pasted copy) Cooking Copy. And there is no point in pasting into the same folder.

Fig 1.1  Double click on your flash drive's desktop icon or FINDER Sidebar icon to open it and view its contents

With the Flash Drive folder (window) now open, and more importantly now the currently active folder (window), the next step is to use its PASTE menu-item; located on its EDIT menu (Fig 1.2) and on its ACTION menu (Fig 1.3). Clicking on its PASTE menu-item will make a copy of the Cooking folder (and its contents), based on the folder/file records created by the COPY function, and store that copy inside the computer's memory before pasting (transferring) it into the currently active folder; which is the root folder of the Flash Drive in this example - The Storage folder (Fig 1.4). If you were pasting (transferring) the Cooking folder (and its contents) into the MOVIES folder, MOVIES would then be classed as its main (parent/root) folder, because the Cooking folder will now be classed as a sub-folder of it of course.

Fig 1.2  Click on the PASTE menu-item of the EDIT menu.....

Fig 1.3  .....or click on the PASTE menu-item of the ACTION menu.

To clarify the process known as: COPY & PASTE; When you click on the COPY menu-item the COPY function records (makes a list of) your selected items (i.e. the Cooking folder and its contents) so that the PASTE function can then read that list (record) in order to make an exact copy of the selected items (folders/files) which it then puts inside a portion of the computer's memory called The Clipboard.

The PASTE function stores a copy of your selected items inside The Clipboard so that it does not have to create another copy of the same items every time you click on the PASTE menu-item. Furthermore, it means you do not need to COPY a folder (i.e. Cooking), PASTE it into another folder (i.e. Storage), COPY the same folder again (i.e. Cooking) and then PASTE it into a different folder (i.e. Movies). The PASTE function just uses the copy it has put inside The Clipboard, based on the records the COPY function created for it. This means you do not need to click on the COPY menu-item ten times in order to PASTE the same content into ten different places - Once you have initially clicked on the COPY menu-item it is the job of the PASTE function to repeatedly use the memory copy (clipboard copy) for yours, and its, pasting needs.

So to recap the COPY & PASTE process: First select (click on) the folder you want to make a copy of (i.e. Cooking - Fig 1.0 above) and then click on the COPY menu-item belonging to (associated with) to its active folder (window) - In this example, the main DOCUMENTS folder is the associated, active, folder (window) - As soon as you click on (select) a folder (i.e. Cooking) its main folder (window and menu-items) becomes the active folder. As said, DOCUMENTS in this example. In terms of COPY: The folder you are copying from (i.e. DOCUMENTS) is known as the Source Folder.

With the COPY done the last step is to select another folder (i.e. Storage - Fig 1.1 above), which is known as your Destination Folder, so that you can then use its PASTE menu-item (Fig 1.2 above) to transfer the memory copy (clipboard copy) of your selected folder (Cooking) into its folder (Storage). After clicking on the active, destination, folder's PASTE menu-item the PASTE function will put a copy of your selected folder and its contents into your destination folder (Figures 1.4 and 1.5 below).

Fig 1.4  A COPY of the Cooking folder (and its contents) has been PASTEd into the Storage flash drive folder

Fig 1.5  If you open the Cooking folder you will see that its contents (three sub-folders) has been copied too.

If you try to PASTE the selected folder (and its contents) whereby you have removed (unplugged/disconnected/unmounted) the source folder (COPY from folder), such as a flash drive or floppy disk, you will receive an error message. So if you have a folder called Important Documents on your flash drive whereby you select it and COPY it but then unmount (properly disconnect) the flash drive, you will receive the following error message that basically states the selected folder (item) could not be found and therefore could not be copied by the PASTE function. This is because the clipboard copy is destroyed when the source folder is unplugged/unavailable.

Fig 1.6  The source folder (and its contents) has been removed and now PASTE cannot make a copy of it

You will also receive an error message if there is not enough space available on the device (destination folder) that you want to PASTE into, such as the computer's hard drive, a flash drive, a network drive, a floppy disk or cloud storage folder. The PASTE function will pre-calculate the size of your selected folder (and its contents) against the free space available on the device you are pasting into (transferring to). In this next example I am trying to PASTE a photo folder called Holidays (and its contents - photo folders, sub-folders and files) from the main PICTURES folder on my computer into my 4 GB Flash Drive, but the photo folder (and its contents) has a combined size of 4.86 GB.

Fig 1.7  PASTE cannot continue - My 4 GB flash drive folder lacks the space needed to store my Holidays folder

In cases like 'lack of free space available' you would simply have a rethink of what items to copy (i.e. only copy the important/needed photos) and then begin to COPY & PASTE one folder at a time until you are almost out of space. In this next example I have deleted everything from my 4 GB Storage flash drive in order to make room for as many photos as possible. The COPY & PASTE process will transfer a copy of my Europe2005 holiday folder from the main PICTURES folder on my computer into my now empty 4 GB Storage flash drive folder.

Fig 1.8  Only COPY & PASTE one folder (and its contents) at a time when your device lacks storage space

I can tell I have enough space available for these particular photos because the status bar at the bottom of the Storage window (folder) states how much space remains on the flash drive. If I right click over the European2005 folder and click on its GET INFO menu-item (not show here) it will show me the size of the folder and its contents, which means I can then tell if I have enough space to COPY & PASTE that folder (and its contents).

Fig 1.9  The status bar at the bottom of the Storage window (folder) tells me how much flash drive space remains

Getting back to the actual PASTE methods. This second PASTE method implements the CUT function, as found on a Windows computer. With the OS X (Sierra) operating system the CUT menu-item is available for word processors for example but not for folders. So with folders you must first COPY a selected folder as exampled in Fig 1.0 above but then use the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item instead of the PASTE menu-item to actually paste (transfer) that selected folder. The CUT & PASTE process, or COPY & MOVE ITEM HERE process (if you want to call it that), actually removes the original folder (and its contents) from its original main folder (source folder) once it has been pasted into its destination folder.

To show you what I mean I will once again empty my Storage flash drive folder. With the Storage folder now empty the first step of the COPY & MOVE ITEM HERE process is to COPY the Cooking folder (and its contents) as exampled above (Fig 1.0). The next step is to activate the Storage folder (destination folder) by opening it or clicking inside it if it's already open (Fig 1.1 above). Once you have done that, follow these next steps carefully. They are the actual CUT & PASTE steps - The steps that will move the Cooking folder (and its contents) from the main DOCUMENTS folder (source folder) into the Storage flash drive folder (destination folder).

Begin by clicking on the EDIT Menu belonging to your destination folder (Storage in this example). Doing so will display the standard EDIT Menu menu-items as expected, with the PASTE ITEM menu-item amongst them.

Fig 1.10  Click on the EDIT Menu to bring up its standard menu-items

With the standard EDIT Menu menu-items now displayed, leave the mouse alone and press down on the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key. Keep the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key pressed (held) down from this point onwards and you will notice that the PASTE ITEM menu-item has been replaced by the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item, which is what you require to perform the CUT & PASTE procedure.

Fig 1.11  Press down on the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key to display the MOVE TO HERE menu-item

Now you know how to make the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item appear, by keeping the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key pressed down whilst viewing the EDIT Menu menu-items, the final step is to click on the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item.

Fig 1.12  With the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key held down, click on the MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item.

Clicking on the MOVE ITEM HERE will, as said above, move the Cooking folder (and its contents) from the main DOCUMENTS folder (source folder) into the Storage flash drive folder (destination folder) whereby the Cooking folder (and its contents) are no longer in the main DOCUMENTS folder. That's how you move the entire contents of a selected folder from one place to another; using the above CUT & PASTE (MOVE ITEM HERE) process.

Fig 1.13  The entire contents of the Cooking folder has been moved from DOCUMENTS folder into Storage folder

The MOVE ITEM HERE menu-item will also be available on the ACTION Menu of the destination folder (window). It will also be available on the destination folder's Context Menu (right click Options Menu) when you then hold down the ALT (OPTION) keyboard key.


COPY & PASTE and CUT & PASTE (MOVE ITEM HERE) are not just limited to folders. You can copy Files, Text and Pictures too. And you can also copy a mixture of folders and files, files only or folders only. This next example shows how to select multiple folders and files. COPY & PASTE-ing them would be the same as above. All you would of done is select multiple items (i.e. folders and files).

To select multiple folders and/or files simply hold down the CMD (Command) keyboard key and then, with CMD (Command) still held down, select (left click on) each folder and/or file you want to COPY (or even MOVE TO TRASH). If you select a folder or file by mistake simply left click on it again, with CMD (Command) still held down, to deselect it. Once you have made your selection you can use the PASTE or MOVE ITEMS HERE menu-item as above.

Fig 1.14  Keep the CMD keyboard key held down as you select or deselect a folder or file by left clicking on it

Sometimes you may need many folders and files selecting, perhaps because you are putting them onto a CD/DVD. In this case you can use the elastic band effect to select a group of folders and/or files - Therefore containing them within that elastic band (rectangle).

Starting from the right-hand-side of your proposed selection, either from the top or middle right-hand-side of it (top-right or top-middle position), click the left mouse button to mark the starting point of your rectangle. So in this next example my rectangle begins from mid-way down the right-hand-side of the Contacts.vcf file. At this point you need to keep the left mouse button held down, at the starting point of your rectangle and therefore starting point of your proposed selection.

The next step, whilst keeping that click held down, is to drag (move) the mouse pointer leftwards, and downwards if need be, over all the folders/files you want selecting until you reach the last folder/file in your selection. So in this example I have already moved the mouse pointer leftwards over three items (Contacts.vcf, Clients and C.V.docx) before moving it downwards so that three more items are highlighted (Jobs, Letters and Manual.pdf). So six items in total are now highlighted, with the mouse pointer over the JOBS folder marking the end point of my rectangle.

Note the word Highlighted - The folders and files within the rectangle are not Selected at this point. This is because I have not released (let go of) the left mouse button yet. Only when you are happy that your elastic band (rectangle) has highlighted all the folders/files you want in your selection, perhaps to COPY or DELETE, should you then release the left mouse button and therefore create your selection.

Fig 1.15  Drag (move) the mouse pointer (elastic band) over the folders/files you want in your selection

Even when you have items (folders/files) selected using the elastic band (rectangle) method you can still use the CMD (Command) keyboard key method to select or deselect more items. So you might want to select 100 items with the elastic band and then deselect 1 item using the CMD (Command) method, as opposed to clicking on 99 items with the CMD (Command) keyboard key held down. Remember to keep the CMD (Command) keyboard key, or left mouse button, held down where applicable; otherwise you may end up deselecting items by mistake.

SELECT, COPY and PASTE are explained and exampled further throughout this website so do not worry too much about it for now. The above examples were just introductions.