An addition to the clipboard specification

Shaun McCance shaunm at
Mon Jun 12 21:02:44 EEST 2006

I'm late on this thread, but the issue seems to be open still.

On Thu, 2006-04-20 at 00:54 +0300, Toni Ruottu wrote:
>   hi
> > > I created a patch which sharpens the current specification in the way I
> > > was requesting.
> > 
> > >  - when PRIMARY is set, any selection visualization regarding
> > >    the old selection (conceptually showing former content of
> > >    primary) should be cleared
> >
> > This may be the traditional way, but it can be also pretty annoying (people 
> > don't select things just in order to copy&paste them)
>   Could you please be more specific. Gtk+ works this way _today_ and I don't
>   remember anyone complaining about it.

I have heard lots of people complaining about it.  I've seen
discussions about this on mailing lists and on IRC.  It has
been proposed numerous times to the GTK+ developers that
selections not be dropped when PRIMARY is lost, but they
won't do it because they want to adhere to the spec.

Now, every time some yahoo comes along and proposes that we
drop PRIMARY "because it's confusing", my counter-argument
is that if you don't know about PRIMARY, you'll never see
it.  It doesn't interfere with the clipboard at all, except
when using broken programs like xchat.

But the selection-dropping thing is the hole in my argument.
Imagine, now, some user that doesn't know about PRIMARY.  He
uses his clipboard, like he would on any other system, and
everything works fine.  Except, some applications seem to
drop his text selection when he leaves them idling for a
while.  Why are they doing that?  He selected stuff for a
reason, and the programs are just dropping his work.  How

Now imagine we don't drop selections when losing PRIMARY.
Take any one of us that uses PRIMARY.  I can't speak for
everybody, of course, but I know that my general usage
of PRIMARY is select-paste-forget.  I don't look at my
desktop to see what's selected so I know what's been in
PRIMARY for the last half hour.  So having multiple text
selections in multiple open windows doesn't confuse my
PRIMARY usage at all.

Dropping selections does more harm than good, and it
causes an experienced-user feature to interfere with
non-experienced users.  Specifications are nothing
more than agreements among people, and we're the


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