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Tip of the Week: The Inner Workings of Copy/Pasting

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Copying and pasting is possibly one of the most used utilities that the computer has to offer a user. However, this function relies on a very specific piece of your operating system: the clipboard. For this week's tip, we'll examine how the clipboard works.

How to Copy/Paste

If you want to move text from one window or application to another, you can simply highlight it with your mouse by dragging over it (or hold Shift on your keyboard and use the arrow keys). Then use Ctrl+C to copy the text into your clipboard. Go to where you want to apply the text and use Ctrl+V to paste it in. Alternatively, most applications also allow you to right-click selected text, giving you a drop down with the copy and paste functions

What Is the Clipboard?

The clipboard is a specialized section of your computer's random access memory (also known as RAM) that temporarily stores the data you copy. Of course, the clipboard can hold more than just text-based data. You may also use it to move over images, or entire copies of files, if need be. This data will remain saved to the clipboard until you've copied other data over it, logged out, or your device is powered down.

The cut function (Ctrl+X) works in a very similar way, the main difference being that 'cut' removes the data from the source and moves it to the clipboard, rather than duplicating it over. This is why you usually only find the option to cut available where you have input data.

Advancements and Improvements to the Clipboard Functions

Of course, if the Clipboard has ever had a weakness, it has been the fact that you can only copy and 'save' one set of data at a time. There are third-party programs and utilities that allow you to store multiple data clippings that you've accumulated through your copy function, but they aren't built in to most PCs. This way, rather than having to dig through your past activities to find the source materials, you have the option to keep a record of items that you have copied or cut to refer back to.

The new Cloud Clipboard that Microsoft has developed also has this record-keeping function, in addition to its ability to transfer copied or cut data from one device and paste it into a document on a separate device. While it has yet to be released, this ability could provide office workers who rely on multiple devices with a simpler way to keep their data where it needs to be, and to make edits much more quickly.

So, what do you think? Are these new additions to the clipboard's abilities going to be useful to you in your daily responsibilities? Let us know in the comments, and make sure you subscribe to our blog!

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