Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

Yesterday, Carly posted a response to Boy Genius Report’s thoughts on some deficiencies in the Android experience. In that post, she described how to select text to copy and paste on her Motorola Droid (or any Android device with a keyboard). But how do you do this on a device without a hardware keyboard, such as the Nexus One?

That was one of the first questions I had when I moved from my T-Mobile G1 to the T-Mobile myTouch 3G. On an Android device with a keyboard, it’s a very simple operation. You use the Shift key on the hardware keyboard and use the trackball to highlight and select text. But, what do you do when you don’t have a hardware keyboard?

There are two variations on how to select the text: with and without the trackball. Both begin with the same first step:

Step 1: Choose Select Text from the menu or by clicking and holding on the screen

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

Without the Trackball

Step 2: Place your finger on the screen and drag and select the text that you want. Text is highlighted as you drag your finger over it. Once you let go, it’s automatically copied to the clipboard.

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

With the Trackball

Step 2: Use the trackball to move to the area you want to select using the mouse pointer that appears and then click the trackball to begin selecting text.

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

Step 3: Move the trackball to highlight the text that you want to copy. Once you click the trackball again, text is automatically copied to the clipboard.

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard  Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

Android Tip: Selecting Text to Copy and Paste Without a Keyboard

That’s all it takes. You can use variations on this approach for text entry fields as well.

Note: That this doesn’t work in all applications. In particular, you cannot select text in the Gmail application yet, but you can in most other applications, including the browser.

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Thomas R. Hall
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