Do We Really Need Cut And Paste?Apple, iPhone, iPod, Rants August 21st, 2008
I”ve spent the past year trying to figure out why everyone really NEEDS cut and paste in the iPhone. Since the day I purchased the iPhone (June 29, 2007) I’ve probably only been in 3 situations where I wished I had cut and paste available to me.
I can’t name a single one of those instances however because they aren’t memorable enough to remember them. But, I’m going to guess that at least 2 of those 3 times were putting in a password for a WAP protected Wifi network, but, since I don’t seem to have the world of troubles with the iPhone keyboard like everyone else does I was able to input the password without having to retry it at all.
You see, the iPhone is a computer, I can’t argue with that but because of it’s ability to manipulate data in outside-of-the-box ways traditional cut and paste doesn’t really apply. For instance, if I wanted to post on Flickr a photo that I found on a web page while browsing Safari I could just tap and hold on the image and save it to my camera roll, open up Mobile Fotos, and upload it to Flickr. That takes care of most of the image cutting and pasteing, now how about text. Well, text is a little bit more tricky but I just don’t understand why it is necessary at all, if you want to quote text for an email, forget about it and just send an email with a link to the web page (which you can do on the iPhone).
Now let’s forget about the arguement that you don’t need cut and paste because I’ve had many conversations with people trying to explain to them why cut and paste isn’t that important (in my opinion they didn’t have very good arguements but for some reason the debate just kept going around in circles), so let’s just try and figure out if there is even an elegant solution to the problem.
In many applications it could (I guess) be elegantly designed so that the application would guess what piece of text you want to be copied, like a tweet from an app like Twitterrific, but the question is then how would you paste it, I guess they could put a button near the keyboard or near the text box within another application but that of course would clutter the screen. Many people however would like to copy text from Safari and I just don’t think that will ever happen, I know that MagicPad thinks that there text selection method is nice and easy but for the average user it isn’t. Trying to explain the distinction between double tapping and single tapping then holding would just be too complicated, not to mention how confusing it would be to someone who accidentally called the text selection tool when they didn’t want it.
The fact is that with a touchscreen interface, doing copy and paste isn’t hard, but doing it in a way that would be easy for users to understand and wouldn’t clutter the screen with buttons is incredibly hard. I’m not holding my breath for copy and paste on the iPhone and I don’t think others should as well (unless you think OpenClip.org has a future, which it might).