Topic on Talk:Visual-based mobile editing/Ideas/October 2018

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)
Ala Ef (talkcontribs)

I think there is a problem in the application; where I can not copy and paste the text in the app, contrary to what is located in the site!

FeRDNYC (talkcontribs)

On mobile, it'd be great to find ways that the interface can provide copy/paste functionality, without the user having to actually perform the traditional copy and paste actions. Because, even something as simple as selecting a block of text to cut or copy can be a serious chore in a mobile editor.

  • The handles at either end of the selection are finicky and difficult to position, all too often refusing to stop in exactly the spot we want, or leaping wildly across the screen to accidentally highlight far too much or far too little text.
  • If the end of the text we want to select is near the edge of the screen, our fat fingers may not be able to coax the selection handle all the way to the very end of what we're targeting.
  • All too often, because of the screen size, we need to make a selection that extends off the top or the bottom of the screen (or at least into the area covered by the on-screen keyboard that insists on being visible during text selection, shrinking the already-small screen even further), and good luck trying to scroll the text without losing whatever part of the selection you've already made.
  • If we do finally manage to select exactly the text we want, then we have to hope that the popup menu containing "Copy" or "Cut" has actually come up, and is in the visible area of the screen instead of (again) hiding halfway under the on-screen keyboard.

In short, it's a nightmare. And for Wiki editing, specifically, we should be able to leverage the text parser to do better, by making more intelligent assumptions — at least some of the time.

  • If a user taps on, say, a reference, just pop up options to cut or copy that entire reference — they shouldn't have to select anything.
  • Ditto for sentences, or paragraphs, perhaps — this would be a good opportunity for user research, to figure out what "unit" of text users most often copy-and-paste.

    Mobile input systems have mostly settled on the single word as the default unit of selection — text-highlighting mode initiates when you long-press on a word, which gets selected, and then you can resize the selection area from there. But, I've never met anyone who bothers using copy-and-paste for a single word — they'll just retype it, because copying text is a big enough pain in the ass that it's not worth the trouble. When we use copy-and-paste, especially on mobile, it's because we want to sling around much more substantial blocks of text.

    I know that, when I use copy/paste during my (dekstop) wiki editing, it almost always takes one of a few basic forms:

    • I copy an entire template transclusion, either because I need to duplicate it elsewhere or I need to create a similar enough transclusion that I'd rather start with an existing template and modify it.
    • I copy an entire reference (possibly including the {{cite}} transclusion inside the <ref>...</ref>s), again either because I need to use it as a template, or because I need to duplicate it in a different article.
    • I copy one or more table rows, then paste them back into the table — once again, to act as a template (in this case, a structural one), replacing the contents of some or all of the copied cells with whatever new data I want to insert into the table.
    • I copy (more likely cut) a sentence, or paragraph, or one or more item(s) in a list, because I'm reorganizing the structure of my writing and feel those paragraphs/sentences/items make more sense if I put them at a different place in the text.

All of these things typically involve click-and-drag (or hold-Shift-and-move-cursor) text highlighting operations, to perform on the desktop... and with a traditional keyboard/mouse input interface, they're fine! But on mobile, we should strive to eliminate manual text selection as much as possible, wherever possible. Because it is bad enough, and disruptive enough to the editing process, that doing it should be considered an absolute last resort.

Reply to "Copying and pasting"