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  • Post published:18/07/2021
  • Post last modified:18/07/2021
Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome to get a major copy-and-paste upgrade
Microsoft Chromium

Microsoft is working with Google on a set of new “Pickle Clipboard APIs” that would improve Google Chrome and Edge’s default clipboard facility, allowing users to easily copy and paste a wide variety of complex data payloads (file types) between the browser and native apps, according to multiple design documents seen by us.

At the moment, Chrome or Edge-based web apps or websites have limited access to your clipboard (copy-and-paste) contents. The current web platform in both browsers supports the most standardized formats, such as .txt, jpg, png, HTML and other popular formats across Windows 10, macOS, Linux or mobile platforms.

However, the existing API does not scale to the long tail of specialized formats. For example, web apps cannot read custom web formats, non-web-standard formats like TIFF (a large image format), and proprietary formats like .docx (a document format). These formats are not supported and users cannot copy-paste them in most web apps.

With the new set of Pickle Clipboard APIs, Microsoft and Google are planning to provide a solution to this problem. If the feature is implemented in the browser and supported by developers, your favourite web apps can read and write arbitrary unsanitized payloads using a standardized pickling format.

In other words, you can soon copy and paste custom file formats between web apps and native apps on Windows, macOS, Android and other platforms.

According to Microsoft and Google, these will be the key benefits of the upcoming clipboard API:

  • Allow copy/paste between web and native apps: This won’t be handled by the browser, which means it willrely on the operating system clipboard.
  • Developers can create custom clipboard formats.
  • Preserve security/privacy.
  • Provide fine-grained control over the clipboard.
  • Built on existing Async Clipboard API.

In multiple Chromium code patches, Microsoft has confirmed that it has already started working on custom clipboard formats support for Chromium browsers. For example, a patch contains the runtime flag implementation of custom clipboard formats in async clipboard APIs.

In another patch note, Microsoft said it’s implementing a new API to write both platform and portable formats together so web authors would be able to write standard and custom formats using the async clipboard write APIs.

“These changes will be used in [Pickle Clipboard API project] to support custom format write operations,” Microsoft engineers noted.

This new API is particularly helpful for developers, but it will also dramatically improve your web browsing experience. For example, you can easily copy documents from your File Explorer and paste them into Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

Likewise, web apps like SketchUp will have access to more specific or sophisticated clipboard features, which should improve the overall copy-and-paste experience for their users.

Microsoft Office team has internally shown interest in supporting this API.

In addition to improvements for Chromium open-source project, Microsoft is also working on exclusive features like Fluent Design support for Edge on Windows 11.

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