iPhone cut and paste preview: how the Newton did it

The idea for cut and paste on the Newton is simple: scribble a word, press the stylus on the word until the highlight marker appears, highlight the word, and then either (a) double tap and drag or (b) just grab the word and drag it to the side of the screen (above – but there’s a great video demo over at Mental Hygiene). Your “clipped” word will appear on the side of the screen, slightly smaller and truncated.

When you want to paste, simply grab the word with the stylus and drag it where you want it. It’s not true “cut and paste” because the word doesn’t disappear, but the effect is similar.

There is also “primary” clipping, says this site:

…which is the last clipping that you touched with your stylus. Some applications have “cut” and “copy” and “paste” menu options, for the benefit of people with keyboards — if you choose “cut,” a clipping is automatically created on the side of the screen and becomes primary. If you choose “paste”, the primary clipping is unhooked and pasted in.

But with screen real estate at a premium on the iPhone, a mini-word on the side might be too large still. How do you “grab” a word? Or highlight it? Can you have multiple items in your clipboard? Can we trust a cloud-based method, after MobileMe’s ups and downs? Will it be a third-party solution, despite Apple shutting down the OpenClip project? Is there a smarter way?

The technical side of cut and paste is far beyond my grasp. Besides, others have handled the explanation of how it was done far better than I could. But we can learn from the past. Just like the Newton and its standards (highlight, pull and drag, double-tapping for the keyboard, etc.), the iPhone has standard ways of doing things. Perhaps all that’s needed is a new standard, such as a hold-and-click, or like the keyboard buttons that MagicPad showed us.

But with evidence that copy and paste is on Apple’s to-do list, we’re left to wait it out.

Any ideas on how the iPhone should do copy and paste?

No comments.

  1. The MagicPad’s pop-up buttons are an excellent way to obviously indicate whether or not something is copied and pasted. But would it work with anything other than text?

  2. Easy. The iPhone already has a decent way to move the cursor and it has a multitouch screen. Move the cursor with an extra finger down to select. Then add another OSX feature, a drop down menu, or just have a contextual menu appear when something is selected.

  3. Ah, TWO fingers! Mac laptops have had that feature on their trackpads for years now. Good idea, Wins. And I wonder, James, whether you could do the touch-and-hold motion for stuff other than text, kind of like you can save pictures now to your phone memory. Maybe just add another option in the menu.

  4. As the iPhone and iPod Touch both have three screens available by using the little buttons at the bottom of the screen, why dont Apple make an extra screen to operate as an equivalent to the clipboard.
    Using two fingers to select the text or graphic, then double tapping the selection it would be copied to the extra screen. On that screen there would be only cut and paste icons.
    So the process would be as follows. To cut: select the text and double tap, flick to the clipboard screen and tap the cut icon. Flick back to the first screen and the text will have gone from the original and will remain on the clipboard screen. To copy: just select the text and double tap. To paste: use the little editing magnifier to place the cursor where you want the text to be pasted into, then flick to the pasteboard screen and click on the paste icon.

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