Mac Option Key tip #06: Option-Drag to Duplicate

Updated September 8th, 2019.

The Option Key Tip-a-Palooza continues with one of the handiest tips ever, namely the Option-Drag technique. Sixth in a series.

When you drag things around on your Mac, they move, right? Right. At least that’s how it usually works: drag a file from one folder to another folder, and it moves. Drag a graphic object from one position to another in Pages or Keynote or Preview and the object moves to the new location. Of course it does. What else would it do? Well, if you hold the Option key when you drag stuff you’ll make a copy while leaving the original in place. See the animated graphic at the top of this post for an example.

Here’s an example, using the Calendar.

Suppose you set aside time on Tuesday to work on a website and you put it into your calendar, like so:

Calendar screenshot showing one appointment
Setting aside a block of time on Tuesday

Let’s say you know you’re not going to get it all done on Tuesday so you want to plan to do it again on Wednesday. Dragging the appointment to Wednesday moves it to Wednesday. It’s gone from Tuesday. That’s not what you want– you want the appointment to still be on Tuesday, but you also want it to be on Wednesday. Dragging from Tuesday to Wednesday makes the calendar look like this when you’re done.

Appointment on Wednesday
The appointment has been moved to Wednesday

Notice the cursor when you drag an appointment from one location to another (enlarged here). It’s an arrow.

Calendar showing appointment and regular cursor
Regular cursor means you’re going to MOVE the appointment

In this case, I really wanted to COPY the appointment to Wednesday, leaving the original on Tuesday. This is easy to do: just hold the Option key down while you drag! Here’s what it looks like as you do it (note the cursor, enlarged for easy viewing):

Calendar showing "duplicate" cursor
This appointment is being copied from Tuesday to Wednesday

And here’s what it looks like when you let go.

Calendar showing two appointments
Result after Option-dragging the appointment from Tuesday to Wednesday

(The cursor doesn’t show the “+” as you drag in every app where Option-Drag works, but it’s worth looking for. One where it doesn’t show is Pages.)

This is much, much easier than entering an event twice. Or even copying and pasting. And it works in a lot more programs than just the Calendar, including…

  • The Finder (Option-Drag to duplicate a file or folder)
  • Pages and Microsoft Word (highlight some text, Option-drag to insert that text in a second location, or Option-Drag to duplicate a graphic object)
  • Numbers and Microsoft Excel (highlight some cells, Option-Drag (grab the EDGE of the selection) to copy those cells elsewhere.

You should try it. This is super-handy.

That’s six.

Click here to see all of my blog posts involving the Option key. Save yourself time and effort with the tips in those posts! Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Mac Option Key tip #06: Option-Drag to Duplicate

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  1. This did NOT help me. Whenever I press the option key on my New MacBook Pro all the windows collapse and I’m left with just the desktop. I cannot find where to disable this so I can copy files by option-dragging them like I’ve always been able to do.

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