Is Linux Annoying?
Subject:   Copy/Paste
Date:   2003-09-12 15:49:34
From:   anonymous2
Response to: Copy/Paste

The X11 "standard" way to do Copy/Paste is a bit different from Windows. Some applications (like, Mozilla, XEmacs ...) support both the X11 scheme and the Windows/Mac scheme, which can add to the confusion.

There is no explicit "Copy" function in X. Instead, simply select the desired text (by highlighting it) -- copying is implicit. It can now be pasted into the same or another window, using the middle mouse button.

Think of it as "Select"/"Paste", rather than "Copy"/"Paste".


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Showing messages 1 through 7 of 7.

  • Copy/Paste
    2003-09-30 16:45:34  anonymous2 [View]

    This is very right.

    I identify the lack of "copy" an actual problem in X design. Many people are used to the idea that when they select something, it's immediately and implicitly copied somewhere into clipboard.

    So, say, you select a piece of text in an xterm, then thinking your selection has now been "copied", you close the app and try to paste in any window.

    Nothing happens. The process holding the selection has exitted, and thus the paste is not possible, because the selection owner can not be contacted.

    Another major annoyance for me is that all the scandinavian letters like ń and ÷ can not be pasted into any *emacs I have. I often try to cut-paste something from, say, xterm or browser, and I know this used to work, but nowadays I get all my pastes full of stuff like ^[%/1^└^╬ISO8859-15^B around every scandinavian char. WHY!?

    The XEmacs multilingual environment stuff seems also hopelessly broken. I had a mule version of xemacs installed and it semi-randomly prompted me for coding system to use for storing my iso-8859-1 files with absolutely nothing but standard scandinavian chars inside them, and typically *refused* to save the file as "iso-8859-1" insisting on using "iso-8859-1-with-esc" instead.

    Naturally, all the scandinavian letters were broken after reloading the file into emacs. Thankfully, the less featured nomule versions work except for the cut-paste problem.
  • Copy/Paste
    2003-09-16 01:58:47  anonymous2 [View]

    I'd like to second the listing of the Copy/Paste behaviour. In spite of what you say is the "standard" behaviour, it's still enormously confusing for someone used to Windows or Mac. It often takes me two or three attempts to get the effect I wanted.

    This is definitely the most un-intuitive behaviour encountered on the Linux desktop.
    • Copy/Paste
      2003-09-16 07:04:22  anonymous2 [View]

      CTRL-C is not intuitive, especially if you're not english speaking. Apparently Xerox came up with the conventions because of the shapes of the letters, X for crossing out. IBM used to use things like Shift-Insert.

      The most intuitive would be the old Sun and HP keyboards, which had keys marked things like "Copy" and "Paste".

      X does support so called secondary selection (Windows style), but it is less used than Primary Selection. Again, Primary Selection used to be the standard. X toolkits had primary selection in all text widgets and labels before Windows had any selection in its text widgets. Unfortunately consistency has been broken by people trying to force Windows conventions onto Linux.
    • Copy/Paste
      2003-09-16 06:17:43  anonymous2 [View]

      It's only unintutive when your background is primarially windows. And that's not unintutitive, it's "different". I'm always irritated immensely the few times I use windows when a simple select with the mouse does not automatically copy the selected text. And instead, I'm forced to do ^c or pull down edit and pick copy to get done a job that shouldn't require my hand to leave the mouse. If there were only a way to get X select/copy functionality in windows, I'd reset windows to the X method.
      • Copy/Paste
        2003-11-29 17:54:01  anonymous2 [View]

        The direct "select/paste" method is good for sysadmins: you can select a filename and paste it into the next shell command, with a single click.

        The problem is, the average desktop user needs "select/copy/paste". A typical word processor session goes like this: select a word, copy it, select a second word, paste. This will overwrite the second word.

        With the "select/paste" method, the sessions becomes: select a word, select a second word, paste. Ops!

        So, the explicit cut, copy and paste commands are there for a good reason.
      • Copy/Paste
        2003-09-27 00:04:52  anonymous2 [View]

        On every windows widget I've encountered, you can right-click the selected text, and click copy. At no point must your mouse hand leave your mouse, leaving your other hand free to do whatever was so vital that it couldn't reach the keyboard.

        The thinking behind the copy/paste metaphor is that there are many reasons to select text, only one of which is to copy it. You might want to, for instance, cut it from an editable widget, have your web browser treat it as a link, drag and drop it, etc. Select/paste is incompatible with this, as it is impossible to select text to further act upon it without clobbering the clipboard.

        In my opinion, select to copy is unintuitive, not just different, as it doesn't conform to the underlying metaphor. The clipboard is (for better or for worse, and mostly thanks to apple) permanantly associated with the words 'cut', 'copy' and 'paste'. These hark back to the bad-old-days of assembling print articles by hand - you would literally cut, copy, and paste bits of paper, with scissors, photocopier and scissors, and glue respectively. Entrenched in users' minds is the concept of the clipboard - whatever you've cut or copied out goes in the clipboard, and the clipboard only holds one thing. For the clipboard to have got filled with something the user didn't cut or copy is unintuitive and confusing (Imagine if words jumped off the page just because you were looking at them...)

        Intuitiveness aside, the 'market share' argument is a valid one. If linux is to expand its market share on the desktop, there are two sources of potential users - users poached from mac/windows, and users who have never used a computer before, and have no preconceptions. The latter group is getting smaller and smaller.

        Select/paste goes against twenty years of convention in the desktop market (even dos used copy/paste), and the expectations of the vast majority of desktop users. Copy/paste is standard behaviour on both windows and mac, and therefore a de-facto standard, defiance of which will only serve to annoy potential converts.
        • Copy/Paste
          2003-09-29 18:41:00  anonymous2 [View]

          I've been using Windows since 3.1 and previously did a lot of copy/paste in DOS apps. I found this thread by googling to see if there is a way to implement "select/paste" into Windows 2K. I use Windows (at work) a lot more than I use X (at home) but I really like the "select/paste" ability. Don't judge intuitiveness on your own (mis)conceptions.