Learn Different Ways to Copy/Paste in Linux

My previous blog entry generated a lot of responses. I really enjoyed that, and surely this was a surprise: I thought most people don’t care nowadays. In fact, I don’t care–I just tried to explain why Linux is better for me. And it’s not over yet–this time I will tell you about my copy/paste experience in Linux and Windows.

Well, everyone knows how copy and paste works: first you select something (usually text) either by mouse or using Shift+arrows, then you press Ctrl-C for copy, when you switch to another window and press Ctrl-V. This is how it works in Windows; of course you can use context menu or application menu for copying and pasting, but key combos are usually more convenient for these actions, while mouse is more handy for performing selection.

In Linux it works the very same way, with one addition: you can omit Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V! When you select something using mouse, it is copied to the clipboard “on the fly,” and for paste you use that middle mouse button (on the modern mice this one is also a scroll wheel). That way, the copy-paste process is more streamlined: you select text, switch to other application, and click the middle mouse button. Two combination keystrokes in Windows–one click in Linux!

But no–it’s not about two keystrokes versus a single click. This is about switching the focus of your attention between the mouse and the keyboard–using “Linux way” (actually, X Window way) you do much less such switching, which increases your productivity.

When I’m forced to work on Windows machine, I miss that “easy copy/paste” feature more than home! In fact, I copy, switch to another app, try to paste and realize that middle mouse button doesn’t work. Well, then I try Ctrl-V, with no luck. Next step is to realize I haven’t pressed Ctrl-C, so I return to the first application and start again, repeating to myself that it’s Windows and I have to use Ctrl+C after selection. In the worst case scenario the app I “copied” from is closed…

Basically, this is just one (but not the only) reason why Windows is not ready for my desktop.

  • Am I asking for too much?

  • No.

  • Is this feature hard to implement?

  • I seriously doubt it.

  • Perhaps, nobody needs that feature in Windows?

  • Don’t you need to increase your productivity? Come on…

  • Is there a way out?

  • Sure. Use Linux.

I am telling you to switch to Linux not because I am a true Linux geek. I really try to be objective here. I tried other approaches first. There is a nice program for Windows called True X-Mouse Gizmo which I tried. Yes, it works, but unfortunately I was not happy with it. The first problem is other functions of the middle mouse button (such as turning on scrolling mode) apparently no longer work.

The second problem is selection by double click (to select a word) or triple click (to select a line) doesn’t initiate copying.

The third problem is it doesn’t work the same as Linux–in fact, Linux has two clipboards (called “primary buffer” and “secondary buffer”)–one is used for mouse copy/paste and another is for Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V. So, if you select something (say, in order to delete it) the contents of what you put in clipboard using Ctrl-C are still there intact.