I have just been enlightened on what I previously thought was a short-coming of the whole Mac OS X platform - that like Windows, a user may select a block of text and drag it. This is particularly useful in developing.

However, the reason I thought it wasn't an available option was because it has never worked for me. No programs allow for select and drag, and I've gone through several online tutorials and forums to see if anybody else has the same issue. None of my work-mates can figure it out.

Why would my whole system dis-allow text dragging? Now that I know it's possible, it's driving me crazy not being able to do it.

I've gone through the System Preferences and the Mouse panel has no specific drag option. Trackpad has a single-finger drag option, but that's not allowing dragging, even with the trackpad.

I'm on a Macbook Pro, from around 2008. I'm using an external mouse and running OS 10.6.

Edit: apparently, the cursor should change when holding the mouse button for a second or two, but on my system, the cursor never changes, no matter how long I hold the mouse button down.


As far as I know there's no preference to enable this, it's just a built-in feature with no on/off switch.

My best advice is to make sure that you hold down the mouse before starting to drag the text. There's some delay built in such that if you try to drag too quickly, you'll just end up selecting more text.

The process that works for me is:

  1. Select the text you want, then release the mouse button.
  2. Left-click and hold on the selection for a second.
  3. Drag the text to wherever you want it.

The holding before dragging is the key.

I made a quick screencast to demonstrate how this works for me on 10.7.5.

  • I guess it works on web pages, but not in text editors. I'm using Sublime Text 2 and Eclipse IDE, and both have explicitly been set to allow dragging, but they don't drag. (It does actually work in TextEdit, I just discovered).
    – Jon Mitten
    Oct 9 '12 at 18:58
  • 1
    Ah, if it's specific programs you're having issues with, then that may be the problem. If those editors don't use the OS X standard text controls, then the behaviour may be different. It looks like this may be a known issue in Sublime Text 2.
    – robmathers
    Oct 9 '12 at 19:03
  • Your link doesn't work, but thanks!
    – Jon Mitten
    Oct 9 '12 at 19:05
  • Looks like the URL encoding got mucked up somehow. Should work now.
    – robmathers
    Oct 9 '12 at 19:07
  • 1
    There is an default for setting the delay, that OS X (MacOS) is waiting in Cocoa app, before a drag is initiated (default: 1s). This dafault can be changed: hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20051121074003638
    – LaborEtArs
    Nov 19 '17 at 10:10

It does not work in most apps so I have to copy-paste into Notes, then I can drag and drop after 1 sec. to my desktop if I want to create a text clip.


Since Lion (OSX 10.7) you need to enable this in

Accessibility Preferences -> Mouse & Trackpad -> Trackpad Options -> Enable dragging.

Using "drag lock" means that you can continue to adjust the drag, finishing it with a single tap. Without a drag lock, the drag operation will finish if you stop dragging for a short time.

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