I think putting files on a clipboard is unnecessary and problematic

I don’t think using a clipboard for file management in a file manager is a good idea, and I’ve explained why here. To summarize, I see a file clipboard as a middleman that makes file management unnecessarily complicated and confusing. That’s why we use mv and cp on the command line rather than cut, copy, and paste. And it’s why Apple’s Finder and Files apps don’t allow files to be cut.

People have argued that putting files on a clipboard is an essential feature in the Gnome Desktop Environment, but I think it’s unnecessary and problematic.

Copying files from nautilus and pasting them into other applications is uncommon behavior for average users. When most people are editing a file and want content from another file, they open the other file, copy content, switch back to the file they’re editing, and paste it. For example, most people don’t copy a text a file in nautilus and paste it into LibreOffice Writer. They open the text file, copy text, and paste it into Writer. It makes more sense to copy and paste content when content is being edited rather than copying and pasting a file.

The behavior is also inconsistent and confusing. Copying and pasting a text file within nautilus will create a copy of it. If you paste it into Terminal or gedit, the pathname gets pasted. If you paste it into LibreOffice Writer, the content gets pasted. It’s intuitive to expect a file to be created when copying and pasting it into anything. This unpredictability is why many people, like me, don’t use the clipboard this way.

Another indication this feature is unsound is the nonsensical behavior that occurs if a person cuts a file in nautilus and pastes it into an application that isn’t a file manager. Logically, a cut+paste combination should result in the removal of the file from its origin, but that doesn’t happen if a person pastes a file into a text editor. It shouldn’t even be possible.

Copying files from other types of applications and pasting them into nautilus is also uncommon. I don’t think I’ve ever done it. I use “Save as…” if it’s available or copy the files in nautilus.

A Share button is a simpler solution than using a clipboard. Apple and Google product users can use the Share button to add file content to other documents. For example, you can add a pdf to a document in Notes using the Share button. This is simpler than copying the pdf, opening Notes, and pasting it.

Early DE developers assumed putting files on a clipboard was a good idea because text and image editors used content clipboards, but I think they were wrong. They didn’t realize file management is fundamentally different than editing things like text and images. I think this feature should be replaced by simpler solutions, like the Share button.

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