Copy & Paste, Drag & Drop

Interaction Techniques and Technologies (ITT), SS 2017
Session 21 (20.07.2016), Raphael Wimmer


These are slides/notes for the lecture, automatically generated from the slide set. Please extend this outline with your own notes.

Overall: Learn more about generic interaction techniques and tracking


  • History and implementation of Undo, Copy&Paste


  • using algebra for tracking / transformations


  • put all knowledge from this course to work

Common Interaction Techniques and Implementations

  1. Strive for consistency.
  2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts.
  3. Offer informative feedback.
  4. Design dialog to yield closure.
  5. Offer simple error handling.
  6. Permit easy reversal of actions.
  7. Support internal locus of control.
  8. Reduce short-term memory load.

<small>Shneiderman, B. and Plaisant, C., Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction: Fifth Edition, Addison-Wesley Publ. Co., Reading, MA (2010), 606 pages. online </small>

  • Clipboard, Drag and Drop
    • User Interfaces
    • Interactive exploration
    • Implementations in different operating systems



  • What is a clipboard?
  • How does the user interface for clipboards look like?
  • How can clipboard functionality be implemented?

How does a clipboard behave? What do you expect from a typical clipboard?

Qt Clipboard inspector

~~~~ show_clipboard.py
from PyQt5.QtWidgets import QApplication

app = QApplication(["",""])
clipboard = app.clipboard()
mimeData = clipboard.mimeData()
print("Current clipboard offers formats: " + str(mimeData.formats()))
for f in mimeData.formats():
    print("---- %s ----" % f)
    data = str(mimeData.data(f))
    if len(data) > 100:
        print(data[:100] + " [...]")
  • „Pasteboard“ for historical reasons
  • manager process pbs accessed via APIs
  • Standard classes for clipboard content (NSString, NSAttributedString, NSImage, NSURL, NSColor, NSSound), general class NSPasteboardItem or custom classes adopting NSPasteBoardReading protocol
  • additional find buffer for text searches
  • General Pasteboard and Find Pasteboard similar to OS X
  • apps can create additional pasteboards
  • Uniform Type Identifier (UTI) describes type of data (e.g., public.jpeg or com.myCompany.myApp.myType)
  • Pasteboard class provides convenience methods for copying/pasting images, URLs, …
  • Main difference to OS X and Windows: no data is actually stored in the clipboard
  • Instead:
    • On „copying“ data to the clipboard, the application tells the X Server that it now owns the CLIPBOARD selection.
    • When pasting data from the clipboard, the application directly requests the data from the application that owns the CLIPBOARD selection.
    • Content negotiation: pasting applications asks for data types the application can provide and can also try to request data in arbitrary format.
  • furthermore: PRIMARY buffer (holds selected text, pasted via middle click) and SECONDARY buffer (mostly unused), similar mode of operation as clipboard.
  • data types identified via MIME types

Further reading: explanation by Jamie Zawinski, Freedesktop.org clipboard "specification", ICCCM: Peer-to-Peer Communication by Means of Selections

  • Clipboard holds one ClipData object at a time, consisting of:
    • ClipDescription object containing list of MIME types
    • one or more ClipData.Items, all having the same type: text, URI, or Intent
  • Content providers allow for retrieving data with a specific MIME type via a URI
  • Usage: [ClipboardManager](http://developer.android.com/reference/android/content/ClipboardManager.html).setPrimaryClip(ClipData)

  • "Copy-paste conclusions: put the metadata on the clipboard"
    • „Step by step we’ve been teasing apart the clipboard to see how metadata could survive a copy-paste between applications. If the metadata survives, then the destination can be used to automatically credit the original source and the creator, without the user having to do it manually.“ "On Clipboard Formats – 2006-09-15"
    • „The Carbon version of Gecko doesn’t interoperate with anything but other Carbon Gecko processes. I figured I should try to do better with the Cocoa nsClipboard.

    This stuff is so underdocumented that it isn’t even funny. This document is written so that others might find something when they search the Web.“*

  • Windows: Object Linking and Embedding (OLE)
  • OS X: Cocoa Drag Manager
  • generally similar to clipboard operation

  • Different clipboard implementations across operating systems
  • Data often available in different formats
  • X11 has asynchronous clipboard
  • format negotiation is quite a mess


  • lehre/ss17/itt/copyandpaste.txt
  • Zuletzt geändert: 12.02.2018 12:45
  • von Raphael Wimmer