October 30, 2022

Is Webflow's Paste Menu Not working?

Is your Webflow paste menu item not working?

For web applications like Webflow, copy and paste functionality are a central aspect of usability. But sometimes, copy / paste seems glitchy, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all.

Sometimes you get a script error, and sometimes you get nothing at all.

But Webflow is not alone in these problems- I’ve seen many web-based apps face similar challenges. So what’s happening?

Most likely, when this happens, we’re facing a browser security issue.

Here’s why.

The Interent, Through your Browser's Eyes

As a user, if you issue a Paste command from your system to your web browser, you are explicitly instructing your system to share its current clipboard data with the target website.

You do this through CTRL+V or CTRL+INS on Windows, CMD+V on a Mac, or sometimes using a right-click system menu.

The point is, you told it that sharing that data is OK.

But if a webpage presents you with a “Paste data” button or menu item, you click it- then the website runs a script that must request data from the clipboard.

So how should the browser handle that request?

To us, that feels like pretty much the same thing, but in fact it’s entirely different.

If javascript has the unrestrained ability to read the clipboard, then every single website can grab whatever’s on your clipboard, at any moment.

Think about that for a minute.

What do you copy to your clipboard each day?

Bank account numbers? Passwords? Personal data?

How many websites do you visit in a day?

How many browser tabs do you have open right now?

Right now, on this system, I’d guess I have 200 browser tabs open. Having multiple monitors and 9 virtual desktops cooking isn’t always a good thing. 

When you consider the problem from the browser's perspective, it makes sense that the browser has to be strict about which sites it will give your clipboard data to, and under exactly what circumstances.

You may have noticed that scripts that write data to the clipboard seem much less restricted, which also makes sense. That’s much safer, with far less privacy risk. 

And this is the Internet we live in.

Browsers are trying to evolve as a shield between us and the websites we visit, to protecting us from nasty stuff.

Thanks Google, we appreciate you.

So, What's the Fix?

Use your system's own built-in paste functionality to deliver content to the browser. When you have problem, CTRL+V and CMD+V are much more likely to work than anything else.

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