How to copy to the clipboard in JavaScript? [Answered]

Sample query:

What is the best way to copy text to the clipboard (multi-browser)?

I have tried:

function copyToClipboard(text) {
    if (window.clipboardData) { // Internet Explorer
        window.clipboardData.setData("Text", text);
    } else {
        unsafeWindow.netscape.security.PrivilegeManager.enablePrivilege("UniversalXPConnect");
        const clipboardHelper = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/widget/clipboardhelper;1"].getService(Components.interfaces.nsIClipboardHelper);
        clipboardHelper.copyString(text);
    }
}

But in Internet Explorer it gives a syntax error. In Firefox, it says unsafeWindow is not defined.

How to copy to the clipboard in JavaScript? Answer #1:

Overview

There are three primary browser APIs for copying to the clipboard:

  1. Async Clipboard API [navigator.clipboard.writeText]
    • Text-focused portion available in Chrome 66 (March 2018)
    • Access is asynchronous and uses JavaScript Promises, can be written so security user prompts (if displayed) don’t interrupt the JavaScript in the page.
    • Text can be copied to the clipboard directly from a variable.
    • Only supported on pages served over HTTPS.
    • In Chrome 66 pages inactive tabs can write to the clipboard without a permissions prompt.
  2. document.execCommand('copy') (deprecated) 👎
    • Most browsers support this as of ~April 2015 (see Browser Support below).
    • Access is synchronous, i.e. stops JavaScript in the page until complete including displaying and user interacting with any security prompts.
    • Text is read from the DOM and placed on the clipboard.
    • During testing ~April 2015 only Internet Explorer was noted as displaying permissions prompts whilst writing to the clipboard.
  3. Overriding the copy event
    • See Clipboard API documentation on Overriding the copy event.
    • Allows you to modify what appears on the clipboard from any copy event, can include other formats of data other than plain text.
    • Not covered here as it doesn’t directly answer the question.

General development notes

Don’t expect clipboard related commands to work whilst you are testing code in the console. Generally, the page is required to be active (Async Clipboard API) or requires user interaction (e.g. a user click) to allow (document.execCommand('copy')) to access the clipboard see below for more detail.

IMPORTANT (noted here 2020/02/20)

Note that since this post was originally written deprecation of permissions in cross-origin IFRAMEs and other IFRAME “sandboxing” prevents the embedded demos “Run code snippet” buttons and “codepen.io example” from working in some browsers (including Chrome and Microsoft Edge).

To develop create your own web page, serve that page over an HTTPS connection to test and develop against.

Here is a test/demo page which demonstrates the code working: https://deanmarktaylor.github.io/clipboard-test/

Async + Fallback

Due to the level of browser support for the new Async Clipboard API, you will likely want to fall back to the document.execCommand('copy') method to get good browser coverage.

Here is a simple example (may not work embedded in this site, read “important” note above):

function fallbackCopyTextToClipboard(text) {
  var textArea = document.createElement("textarea");
  textArea.value = text;
  
  // Avoid scrolling to bottom
  textArea.style.top = "0";
  textArea.style.left = "0";
  textArea.style.position = "fixed";

  document.body.appendChild(textArea);
  textArea.focus();
  textArea.select();

  try {
    var successful = document.execCommand('copy');
    var msg = successful ? 'successful' : 'unsuccessful';
    console.log('Fallback: Copying text command was ' + msg);
  } catch (err) {
    console.error('Fallback: Oops, unable to copy', err);
  }

  document.body.removeChild(textArea);
}
function copyTextToClipboard(text) {
  if (!navigator.clipboard) {
    fallbackCopyTextToClipboard(text);
    return;
  }
  navigator.clipboard.writeText(text).then(function() {
    console.log('Async: Copying to clipboard was successful!');
  }, function(err) {
    console.error('Async: Could not copy text: ', err);
  });
}

var copyBobBtn = document.querySelector('.js-copy-bob-btn'),
  copyJaneBtn = document.querySelector('.js-copy-jane-btn');

copyBobBtn.addEventListener('click', function(event) {
  copyTextToClipboard('Bob');
});


copyJaneBtn.addEventListener('click', function(event) {
  copyTextToClipboard('Jane');
});
<div style="display:inline-block; vertical-align:top;">
  <button class="js-copy-bob-btn">Set clipboard to BOB</button><br /><br />
  <button class="js-copy-jane-btn">Set clipboard to JANE</button>
</div>
<div style="display:inline-block;">
  <textarea class="js-test-textarea" cols="35" rows="4">Try pasting into here to see what you have on your clipboard:

  </textarea>
</div>

Async Clipboard API

Note that there is an ability to “request permission” and test for access to the clipboard via the permissions API in Chrome 66.

var text = "Example text to appear on clipboard";
navigator.clipboard.writeText(text).then(function() {
  console.log('Async: Copying to clipboard was successful!');
}, function(err) {
  console.error('Async: Could not copy text: ', err);
});

document.execCommand(‘copy’)

The rest of this post goes into the nuances and detail of the document.execCommand('copy') API.

Browser Support

The JavaScript document.execCommand('copy') support has grown, see the links below for browser updates: (deprecated) 👎

Simple Example

(may not work embedded in this site, read “important” note above)

var copyTextareaBtn = document.querySelector('.js-textareacopybtn');

copyTextareaBtn.addEventListener('click', function(event) {
  var copyTextarea = document.querySelector('.js-copytextarea');
  copyTextarea.focus();
  copyTextarea.select();

  try {
    var successful = document.execCommand('copy');
    var msg = successful ? 'successful' : 'unsuccessful';
    console.log('Copying text command was ' + msg);
  } catch (err) {
    console.log('Oops, unable to copy');
  }
});
<p>
  <button class="js-textareacopybtn" style="vertical-align:top;">Copy Textarea</button>
  <textarea class="js-copytextarea">Hello I'm some text</textarea>
</p>

Complex Example: Copy to clipboard without displaying input

The above simple example works great if there is a textarea or input element visible on the screen.

In some cases, you might wish to copy text to the clipboard without displaying an input / textarea element. This is one example of a way to work around this (basically insert an element, copy to clipboard, remove element):

Tested with Google Chrome 44, Firefox 42.0a1, and Internet Explorer 11.0.8600.17814.

(may not work embedded in this site, read “important” note above)

function copyTextToClipboard(text) {
  var textArea = document.createElement("textarea");

  //
  // *** This styling is an extra step which is likely not required. ***
  //
  // Why is it here? To ensure:
  // 1. the element is able to have focus and selection.
  // 2. if the element was to flash render it has minimal visual impact.
  // 3. less flakyness with selection and copying which **might** occur if
  //    the textarea element is not visible.
  //
  // The likelihood is the element won't even render, not even a
  // flash, so some of these are just precautions. However in
  // Internet Explorer the element is visible whilst the popup
  // box asking the user for permission for the web page to
  // copy to the clipboard.
  //

  // Place in the top-left corner of screen regardless of scroll position.
  textArea.style.position = 'fixed';
  textArea.style.top = 0;
  textArea.style.left = 0;

  // Ensure it has a small width and height. Setting to 1px / 1em
  // doesn't work as this gives a negative w/h on some browsers.
  textArea.style.width = '2em';
  textArea.style.height = '2em';

  // We don't need padding, reducing the size if it does flash render.
  textArea.style.padding = 0;

  // Clean up any borders.
  textArea.style.border = 'none';
  textArea.style.outline = 'none';
  textArea.style.boxShadow = 'none';

  // Avoid flash of the white box if rendered for any reason.
  textArea.style.background = 'transparent';


  textArea.value = text;

  document.body.appendChild(textArea);
  textArea.focus();
  textArea.select();

  try {
    var successful = document.execCommand('copy');
    var msg = successful ? 'successful' : 'unsuccessful';
    console.log('Copying text command was ' + msg);
  } catch (err) {
    console.log('Oops, unable to copy');
  }

  document.body.removeChild(textArea);
}


var copyBobBtn = document.querySelector('.js-copy-bob-btn'),
  copyJaneBtn = document.querySelector('.js-copy-jane-btn');

copyBobBtn.addEventListener('click', function(event) {
  copyTextToClipboard('Bob');
});


copyJaneBtn.addEventListener('click', function(event) {
  copyTextToClipboard('Jane');
});
<div style="display:inline-block; vertical-align:top;">
  <button class="js-copy-bob-btn">Set clipboard to BOB</button><br /><br />
  <button class="js-copy-jane-btn">Set clipboard to JANE</button>
</div>
<div style="display:inline-block;">
  <textarea class="js-test-textarea" cols="35" rows="4">Try pasting into here to see what you have on your clipboard:

  </textarea>
</div>

Additional notes

Only works if the user takes an action

All document.execCommand('copy') calls must take place as a direct result of a user action, e.g. click event handler. This is a measure to prevent messing with the user’s clipboard when they don’t expect it.

See the Google Developers post here for more info.

Clipboard API

Note the full Clipboard API draft specification can be found here: https://w3c.github.io/clipboard-apis/

Is it supported?

  • document.queryCommandSupported('copy') should return true if the command “is supported by the browser”.
  • and document.queryCommandEnabled('copy') return true if the document.execCommand('copy') will succeed if called now. Checking to ensure the command was called from a user-initiated thread and other requirements are met.

However, as an example of browser compatibility issues, Google Chrome from ~April to ~October 2015 only returned true from document.queryCommandSupported('copy') if the command was called from a user-initiated thread.

Note compatibility detail below.

Browser Compatibility Detail

Whilst a simple call to document.execCommand('copy') wrapped in a try/catch block called as a result of a user click will get you the most compatibility use the following has some provisos:

Any call to document.execCommanddocument.queryCommandSupported or document.queryCommandEnabled should be wrapped in a try/catch block.

Different browser implementations and browser versions throw differing types of exceptions when called instead of returning false.

Different browser implementations are still in flux and the Clipboard API is still in draft, so remember to do your testing.

Copy to clipboard using JavaScript- Answer #2:

Automatic copying to the clipboard may be dangerous, and therefore most browsers (except Internet Explorer) make it very difficult. Personally, I use the following simple trick:

function copyToClipboard(text) {
  window.prompt("Copy to clipboard: Ctrl+C, Enter", text);
}

The user is presented with the prompt box, where the text to be copied is already selected. Now it’s enough to press Ctrl + C and Enter (to close the box) — and voila!

Now the clipboard copy operation is safe, because the user does it manually (but in a pretty straightforward way). Of course, it works in all browsers.

<button id="demo" onclick="copyToClipboard(document.getElementById('demo').innerHTML)">This is what I want to copy</button>

<script>
  function copyToClipboard(text) {
    window.prompt("Copy to clipboard: Ctrl+C, Enter", text);
  }
</script>

Answer #3:

The following approach works in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge, and in recent versions of Safari (copy support was added in version 10 which was released Oct 2016).

  • Create a textarea and set its contents to the text you want copied to the clipboard.
  • Append the textarea to the DOM.
  • Select the text in the textarea.
  • Call document.execCommand(“copy”)
  • Remove the textarea from the dom.

Note: you will not see the textarea, as it is added and removed within the same synchronous invocation of Javascript code.

Some things to watch out for if you are implementing this yourself:

  • For security reasons, this can only called from an event handler such as click (Just as with opening windows).
  • Internet Explorer will show a permission dialog the first time the clipboard is updated.
  • Internet Explorer, and Edge will scroll when the textarea is focused.
  • execCommand() may throw in some cases.
  • Newlines and tabs can get swallowed unless you use a textarea. (Most articles seem to recommend using a div)
  • The textarea will be visible while the Internet Explorer dialog is shown, you either need to hide it, or use the Internet Explorer specific clipboardData API.
  • In Internet Explorer system administrators can disable the clipboard API.

The function below should handle all of the following issues as cleanly as possible. Please leave a comment if you find any problems or have any suggestions for improving it.

// Copies a string to the clipboard. Must be called from within an
// event handler such as click. May return false if it failed, but
// this is not always possible. Browser support for Chrome 43+,
// Firefox 42+, Safari 10+, Edge and Internet Explorer 10+.
// Internet Explorer: The clipboard feature may be disabled by
// an administrator. By default a prompt is shown the first
// time the clipboard is used (per session).
function copyToClipboard(text) {
    if (window.clipboardData && window.clipboardData.setData) {
        // Internet Explorer-specific code path to prevent textarea being shown while dialog is visible.
        return window.clipboardData.setData("Text", text);

    }
    else if (document.queryCommandSupported && document.queryCommandSupported("copy")) {
        var textarea = document.createElement("textarea");
        textarea.textContent = text;
        textarea.style.position = "fixed";  // Prevent scrolling to bottom of page in Microsoft Edge.
        document.body.appendChild(textarea);
        textarea.select();
        try {
            return document.execCommand("copy");  // Security exception may be thrown by some browsers.
        }
        catch (ex) {
            console.warn("Copy to clipboard failed.", ex);
            return false;
        }
        finally {
            document.body.removeChild(textarea);
        }
    }
}

Answer #4:

Here is my take on that one…

function copy(text) {
    var input = document.createElement('input');
    input.setAttribute('value', text);
    document.body.appendChild(input);
    input.select();
    var result = document.execCommand('copy');
    document.body.removeChild(input);
    return result;
 }

@korayem: Note that using html input field won’t respect line breaks \n and will flatten any text into a single line.

As mentioned by @nikksan in the comments, using textarea will fix the problem as follows:

function copy(text) {
    var input = document.createElement('textarea');
    input.innerHTML = text;
    document.body.appendChild(input);
    input.select();
    var result = document.execCommand('copy');
    document.body.removeChild(input);
    return result;
}

Answer #5:

Reading and modifying the clipboard from a webpage raises security and privacy concerns. However, in Internet Explorer, it is possible to do it.

    <script type="text/javascript">
        function select_all(obj) {
            var text_val=eval(obj);
            text_val.focus();
            text_val.select();
            r = text_val.createTextRange();
            if (!r.execCommand) return; // feature detection
            r.execCommand('copy');
        }
    </script>
    <input value="http://www.sajithmr.com"
     onclick="select_all(this)" name="url" type="text" />

Answer #6:

If you want a really simple solution (takes less than 5 minutes to integrate) and looks good right out of the box, then Clippy is a nice alternative to some of the more complex solutions.

It was written by a cofounder of GitHub. Example Flash embed code below:

<object
    classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000"
    width="110"
    height="14"
    id="clippy">

    <param name="movie" value="/flash/clippy.swf"/>
    <param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"/>
    <param name="quality" value="high"/>
    <param name="scale" value="noscale"/>
    <param NAME="FlashVars" value="text=#{text}"/>
    <param name="bgcolor" value="#{bgcolor}"/>
    <embed
        src="/flash/clippy.swf"
        width="110"
        height="14"
        name="clippy"
        quality="high"
        allowScriptAccess="always"
        type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
        pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer"
        FlashVars="text=#{text}"
        bgcolor="#{bgcolor}"/>
</object>

Remember to replace #{text} with the text you need copied, and #{bgcolor} with a color.

Answer #7:

Copying plain text to the clipboard is relatively simple, assuming you attempt to do it during a system copy event (user presses Ctrl + C or uses the browser’s menu).

var isIe = (navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf("msie")    != -1 ||
            navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf("trident") != -1);

document.addEventListener('copy', function(e) {
    var textToPutOnClipboard = "This is some text";
    if (isIe) {
        window.clipboardData.setData('Text', textToPutOnClipboard);
    } else {
        e.clipboardData.setData('text/plain', textToPutOnClipboard);
    }
    e.preventDefault();
});

Putting text on the clipboard not during a system copy event is much more difficult. It looks like some of these other answers reference ways to do it via Flash, which is the only cross-browser way to do it (so far as I understand).

Other than that, there are some options on a browser-by-browser basis.

This is the most simple in Internet Explorer, where you can access the clipboardData object at anytime from JavaScript via:

window.clipboardData

(When you attempt to do this outside of a system cut, copy, or paste event, however, Internet Explorer will prompt the user to grant the web application clipboard permission.)

In Chrome, you can create a Chrome extension that will give you clipboard permissions (this is what we do for Lucidchart). Then for users with your extension installed you’ll just need to fire the system event yourself:

document.execCommand('copy');

It looks like Firefox has some options that allow users to grant permissions to certain sites to access the clipboard, but I haven’t tried any of these personally.

Hope you learned something from this post.

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Linux and Python enthusiast, in love with open source since 2014, Writer at programming-articles.com, India.

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