Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


How to select, copy, and paste on the Apple Vision Pro with hand gestures

Want to use just your fingers and eyes with the virtual tools on Apple Vision Pro to copy and paste? This guide is for you.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Vision Pro on blue background
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

The Apple Vision Pro is a bit of an odd beast for fulfilling productivity tasks. On one hand, it makes a spectacular external monitor for Macs, especially when combined with the Mac's mouse and keyboard. On the other hand, if you want to use the Vision Pro on its own, things get a little more challenging.

Review: Apple Vision Pro: Fascinating, flawed, and needs to fix 5 things

Take selecting, cutting, copying, and pasting text. In this article, we'll look at the hand gestures you can use to accomplish these basic tasks.

I'll tell you upfront that making these hand gestures with precision is tricky. The features are there, however, so let's look at how to make them work.

I won't discuss the alternative method of using a physical Apple keyboard with the Vision Pro. That method works using the same command keys we're all used to. 

Also: How to order Apple Vision Pro: Tips, tricks, and my secret to a good face scan

If you want to use your fingers and eyes with the virtual tools, this guide is for you.

Universal Clipboard

Let's start with the Universal Clipboard. This useful Apple feature lets all your devices share what's on your clipboard so you can copy some text on your Mac and paste it on your iPhone, or copy something on your iPad and paste it on your Mac. In the case of the Vision Pro, the easiest way to add text is by copying text on a Mac or iPad, and pasting it on the Vision Pro.

Also: Itching to try Vision Pro's Travel Mode? Here's what to expect before you go

To do this, you need to be sure that Bluetooth is turned on for all your devices, all your devices are using the same Wi-Fi SSID, and all your devices are using the same iCloud account.

Once that's done, be sure Handoff is enabled on your Vision Pro. Handoff is the technology that controls Universal Clipboard. To turn it on, go to General in Settings and scroll down to Handoff:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Tap its label, and then toggle Handoff to on:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Here, I copied the article description from one of my ZDNET articles while on my Mac and, using Handoff and Universal Clipboard, pasted it onto a note in my Vision Pro:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

You can see above how the device states where the clipboard came from -- in this case, a Mac named Eagle.

Selecting text

I won't lie to you; selecting text on Apple Vision Pro is difficult. The mechanics are straightforward, but the mechanism -- the eye tracking -- makes it hard.

The first thing you need to do is click somewhere in your text. To do this, look at where you want the cursor to go and then pinch and hold your fingers together, as shown below:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The challenge is that your only pointing device is your eyes, and eye tracking at the pixel level isn't perfect. I had to adopt a hard stare. Even then, the selection location wasn't always correct:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Once you have your cursor in place, you'll see a menu. Glance at Select, do the finger tap, and you'll see the selection bubbles:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

You can extend the selection to either side of the text, but to do so, you must direct your eyes exactly to the bubble and move your fingers. Apple's eye tracking, at least for me, isn't nearly accurate enough to make this a reliable activity.

I could make selections, but after doing so for just a few minutes, I found myself rather cranky. It's challenges like this that make me rethink the $3,499 base price of this device.

Also: Apple Vision Pro tricks: How to take perfect screenshots and recordings (and avoid weirdness)

In any case, with a bunch of retries and some concentration, you should be able to select whatever you want.

Cutting and copying

Once you've selected some text, you can cut it by focusing your eyes on the Cut item in the popup menu and tapping your thumb and forefinger:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Copy works the same way, except that you focus on the word Copy. To paste, you focus on the word Paste and tap your fingers together:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

And there you go -- that's how to select, cut, copy, and paste using nothing but your eyes and the tips of your fingers. I'd say it's almost magical if it wasn't so frustrating.

Have you tried cutting and pasting using the Vision Pro? Did you find it fussy, or did it go smoothly for you? Are you using the Vision Pro as a machine for writing, using only the virtual controls? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter, and follow me on Twitter/X at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Editorial standards