Keyboard Selection and the Copy/Paste Buffer
jamethknorth at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 23 22:50:34 EEST 2004
There appears to be no current standard for how to treat keyboard
selections, as opposed to mouse selections, in regards to the cut/copy/paste
As far as I can see, there is no good reason for having a difference between
the mouse and keyboard selection. The primary selection buffer represents
what is selected or was last selected. Since selecting something by keyboard
removes the mouse selection, it seems that it would also change what the
primary selection buffer is.
I would like to recommend the following three additions to the
freedesktop.org specification/explanation on treatment of cut/copy/paste
The following paragraph should be added after the summary of the proper
behavior and before the bulleted list describing the problems with the
Regarding how keyboard selections, no standard has yet arisen. To clarify
usage, selections made by the keyboards should be treated the same as
selections made by the keyboard. The PRIMARY selection is treated as the
current selection, not the selection last made by the mouse.
The following point should be added to the list of things application
programmers should do to support this standard (likely as the second point):
- selections made using the keyboard should be treated the same as
selections made using the mouse
There is likely a need for some reference to keyboards in the historical
section of that document as well.
For examples of where this is currently being done differently:
OpenOffice: treats mouse and keyboard selections the same.
Mozilla: treats mouse and keyboard selections the same.
Qt Widgets: ignore keyboard selections.
GTK Widgets: fail on both keyboard and mouse selections.
AbiWord: treats mouse and keyboard selections the same.
KWrite: treats mouse and keyboard selections the same.
The GIMP: fails on keyboard selections.
KWord: ignores keyboard selections.
This is a significant inconsistency problem in how the cut/copy/paste buffer
is treated, and it is apparently not addressed anywhere.
I previously raised this issue on the kde-usability mailing list  but we
were unable to come to any concensus. Many people disagree with this
position. Although I think that it is better to have keyboard and mouse
selections treated the same, I think it is more important to have them be
treated consistently between applications. Even if there is reason not to
follow what I recommended, the guidelines should at least give mention
Another thing that came up from the usability discussion of this was that
the guidelines do not address non-implicit selections. I'm not sure they
need to, as everyone appears to do that the same, but it might be worth
adding. That is, a selection which the user does not do implicitly should
not affect the buffer. For example, if I hit tab and that moves me to a new
combo-box, it also selects the contents of the combo-box. The selection was
not implicit in my action, so it should not affect the primary selection.
Thank's for your time.
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