[Annoyances] X-Windows Copy & Paste

George jirka at 5z.com
Tue Aug 19 19:24:02 EEST 2003

On Tue, Aug 19, 2003 at 02:51:15AM -0700, John Meacham wrote:
> furthermore, the case mentioned 'what about the copy button' is also
> addressed. you ONLY set both the clipboard and primary when your app
> does NOT have an explicit copy operation. for many apps, an explicit
> copy does not make sense, there is no reason to drag over text unless
> you want to copy it, adding an extra step which only sometimes is
> required (depending on where you are pasting) needlessly complicates the
> user interface. 

I quite frequently select text for no reason, to just highlight it for
reading and I know other people that do that.  Also quite often I select by
accident being the clumsy me that I am.  So there are quite a few occasions
where things are selected when I don't want to then copy.  I would NEVER
expect that to whack my clipboard since I didn't do anything that said
"Copy".  I just selected something.  From most users perspective, selecting
something does nothing.  You will especially confuse users that don't know
about the "select then middle click" feature.  They really won't expect
selection to whack the letter to their grandma they just copied and were
going to paste to their email client.

> most desktop type apps will do #1 but we should specify what apps which do not have
> an explicit copy operation should do. just setting PRIMARY isn't
> acceptable if it is your ONLY selection operation.

ALL apps should have an explicit copy operation.  If you can bind selection,
you can bind a key combo that does a copy.  You don't need the "Edit" menu
there.  This is the way it works in windows quite apparently and people are
quite happy with that solution.

> The advantages mentioned I think overweight the slight modifcation to
> existing practice.

I highly doubt that.  The only advantage is that you don't have to press a
key to copy, and that's a very dubious advantage.  The disadvantage is that
it's an incosistent behaviour that is potentially destructive, and a
behaviour that is not easily discoverable.  It is nice that you know which
contexts are read only, but we're talking users.

> I can't think of another proposal which lets a single cut-n-paste
> mechanism ALWAYS work between all apps. (while keeping the Primary
> Clipboard distinction, whith is a good idea)

Allways allow explicit copy by the key combo Ctrl-C (or Shift-Ctrl-C for
a terminal obviously).  Then you will be able to have something ALWAYS work
between apps, and in addition it will ALWAYS work the same rather then
depending on context.


George <jirka at 5z.com>
   As long as people will accept crap, 
   it will be financially profitable to dispense it.
                       -- Dick Cavett, in "Playboy", 1971

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