Google Chrome And Microsoft Edge Will Bring Cool New Innovations To Copy-And-Paste

Microsoft Edge
Coping and pasting content from the web is about to become a whole lot more flexible, courtesy of some new APIs (application programming interfaces) Microsoft and Google are working on for their respective browsers. Once in place, Edge and Chrome users will be able to copy content from a wider range of sources, including .docx.

What is at play here are a set of Pickle Clipboard APIs. As things currently stand, Edge and Chrome users are only able to copy content from a limited selection of file types, like .jpg and .png. But that is going to change.

As described in a Google Chromium conversation, Pickle Clipboard APIs will expand the copy and paste capability to non-standard web formats.

"Pickle Clipboard API lets websites read and write arbitrary unsanitized payloads using a standardized pickling format, as well as read and write a limited subset of OS-specific formats (for supporting legacy apps). The name of the clipboard format is mangled by the browser in a standardized way to indicate that the content is from the web, which allows native applications to opt-in to accepting the unsanitized content," the description reads.

An accompanying GitHub page on Pickle Clipboard APIs notes that the existing Web Platform has an API that supports only the most popular standardized data types, but leaves out "the long tail of specialized formats," and most notably custom, non-standard web formats. These include TIFF, a large image file format, and proprietary formats like .docx.

One of the upshots for developers is they could make web apps to support application-specific types, like copying and pasting within or between Google Docs and Google Sheets, or Office 365's Word and Excel products, using pickled formats. And developers that own both a web and native application (such as SketchUp) could allow for copy and pasting between their applications.

"The existing Async Clipboard API’s re-encoding is still encouraged for use cases requiring only generic types, and easier to use as they are standardized and widely-interoperable, but pickling allows web applications with more specific or sophisticated clipboard needs to meet those needs," the GitHub page states.

Microsoft is apparently working on custom clipboard formats, according to multiple Chromium code patches spotted by WindowsLatest, one of which is for a runtime flag that adds custom clipboard formats in Async Clipboard APIs.

It's not clear how long this will take to implement, and specifically whether the expanded copy-and-paste capabilities will arrive before Windows 11 debuts later this year.