Why copy and paste on the web are about to get magical

Microsoft is currently collaborating with Google on a new set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that could dramatically change the way we think about simple commands like copy and paste. Collectively called the Pickle Clipboard API, they will allow you to copy and paste a wide range of file types.

At the moment, Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome only allow you to copy certain file formats between the browser and native applications. These formats include (but are not limited to) JPEG, PNG and HTML. Reportedly, the two browsers are now working on a new set of Chromium APIs that will hopefully expand the list of supported file types you are allowed to copy from.

Microsoft Edge will now sport extended compatibility.

The Pickle Clipboard API will extend the functionality of the Clipboard feature, allowing you to take advantage of a variety of additional file types, including custom formats created specifically for applications on the Web.

A simple example is being able to copy and paste .docx (used for Microsoft Word) and TIFF (a large image format for graphic design) content between your web and desktop apps.

The expansion of the copy-paste feature to non-standard web formats also means that developers can allow you to copy-paste between a PWA (Progressive Web App) and a desktop app. For example, Google products, including Google Docs and Google Sheets, can support file types from Office 365 apps, such as Word or Excel. Those who have both a web-based and a native version of a specific app, such as SketchUp, can also hopefully copy-paste them within their applications.

According to Google Chromium Conversations Regarding the Pickle Clipboard API, the API “let’s websites read and write arbitrary uninitialized payloads using a standardized pickle format, as well as read a limited subset of OS-specific formats (to support legacy apps). The name of the clipboard format is modified by browsers in a standardized way to indicate that the content is from the Web, which allows native applications to opt-in to accept unclean content.”

In addition to increasing compatibility to include multiple niche and proprietary file types, the new set of APIs will also provide developers with a custom clipboard format that provides fine-grained control over copy-paste convenience. the possibilities are endless.

The advanced copy-paste feature could potentially translate into a vastly improved experience of using and working between web applications. Unfortunately, there isn’t much clarity at the moment as to when these features will come to Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

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