Copy and paste on (some) iPhones

Invariably, when Apple releases a new version of the iPhone’s software, users ask this question: “Is copy and paste finally implemented?” And, just as invariably, the answer is “No.”

As far as Apple is concerned, the answer remains no. But those who’ve jailbroken their iPhones can now reply, “Yes, sort of.”

Specifically, if you’ve used a utility such as PwnageTool or QuickPwn to jailbreak your phone and, in that process, install Cydia (a utility for installing third-party applications and tools), you have the option to install a couple of utilities that add some copy and paste functionality to your iPhone.

One is Ryan Petrich’s Clippy. Once installed it adds Copy, Paste, Stack, and Close entries to the iPhone keyboard’s .?123 keyboard. To copy text in an editable text field (in Notes or Mail, for example), bring up the keyboard, tap the .?123 key, tap Copy, and the text is copied to the clipboard. To paste, just move to that .?123 keyboard and tap Paste.

Clippy's buttons invoked from the .?123 keyboard.

You can copy just a selection of text by double-tapping at the beginning of the text you wish to copy and dragging your finger across the text to select it. Then tap Copy.

Clippy’s implementation in Text (SMS) is different. To copy a portion of an SMS chat, just double-tap on a text balloon. The tapped text will be copied to the clipboard, ready to paste into another application.

Clippy can maintain multiple clipboard entries. To choose one, bring up the keyboard, tap the .?123 key, and tap the Stack button. In the window that appears you’ll see all copied chunks of text. To choose one, drag it to the top of the list, close the window, and tap Paste.

Another copy and paste option for jailbroken iPhones is KennyTM’s hClipboard. Installing hClipboard adds an hClipboard keyboard to the iPhone’s International keyboards. Once installed you must enable the iClipboard keyboard in the International Keyboard setting (Settings/General/Keyboard/International Keyboards). To use it, produce the keyboard in an application such as Mail or Notes, tap the International Keyboard button on the keyboard (the globe icon that appears next to the Space Bar), and then tap the Copy button. The text in the editable field will be added to the clipboard.

Clippy's stack holds multiple clipboard entries.

If you want to select just a portion of the text, use your finger to insert the cursor at the beginning of the text you’d like to copy and tap the Select From Here icon. Then place the cursor at the end of the text you want to copy and tap Select to Here and Copy. The text is copied to the clipboard.

To paste text, invoke this keyboard and tap any item in the clipboard list to paste. The clipboard can hold up to 10 items. If you find that too limited, you can tap the Switch to Templates button at the bottom-left corner of the screen and copy text into the Templates area. You can store an unlimited-except-by-storage number of template entries.

hClipboard offers another way to copy and paste text on an iPhone.

hClipboard doesn’t work with Text (SMS). For this reason, if you want more complete copy and paste, it’s worthwhile to install both Clippy and hClipboard.

Note that neither utility works reliably with third-party applications nor are they capable of copying text from Safari.

The usual jailbreak caveats apply. Jailbreaking an iPhone or iPod touch is not supported by Apple and will void your warranty. And while current jailbreaks can not permanently damage your iPhone (you can restore the iPhone with iTunes to bring its software back to its original condition), that doesn’t mean a jailbroken iPhone or iPod touch will work with future updates of the iPhone/iPod touch software. In short: Use at your own risk.

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