When selecting copy/paste from the right-click menu, why does Google Docs pop up a dialog to say:

Copying and Pasting in Google Docs

with the message:

These actions are unavailable via the Edit menu, but you can still use Ctrl-C or Ctrl-V

etc when it could just do the operation direct from the menu?

Copy and Paste is in the menu...

copy and paste is in the menu

...but selecting it says you can't do it, use Ctrl-C etc but selecting it says you can't do it, use Ctrl-C etc

What was the design thinking behind this?

I can't understand why one can't just do the operation, after all:

  1. It provides the menu options: copy and paste
  2. when you select these, it knows what they are to tell you
  3. it can do the copy and paste but via Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V etc.
  4. Surely they can link the Google Docs code that handles the menu selection with the code that actually does the operation

Was it a patent issue?

A security issue?

Or some kind of user interface conflict that made this extra step mandatory?

  • 1
    What browser are you using when trying to use the context-menu copy/paste? Feb 7, 2013 at 17:34
  • @OnenOnlyWalter Do you have a g+ profile? Feb 7, 2013 at 21:30
  • @JacobJanTuinstra why is that relevant? Feb 8, 2013 at 0:58
  • @JacobJanTuinstra why yes, I do, why do you ask :) Feb 8, 2013 at 7:08
  • 2
    This is something that always annoys me. Go to all the trouble to add those options in the menu, but then tell you to go away. Anyway, this can be circumvented by going into Firefox's Edit menu and selecting Cut / Copy / Paste (instead of using Drive's ones or right clicking).
    – w00t
    Oct 14, 2015 at 11:10

1 Answer 1


I will assume you're not using Chrome, which is why my answer is relevant.

Check out this article on copy/pasting in Google Drive documents:

When working in Chrome, you can use the right-click menu to copy and paste content (or select "Copy" or "Paste" from the Edit menu in the toolbar).

When using the right-click-context menu in Drive, the stuff you cut/copy/paste is stored in a different place (in Chrome). Therefore, if not using Chrome, you won't be able to use the menu options. The keyboard shortcuts still work because those pieces are stored elsewhere (on the system clipboard, not browser).

Update: a little more context - Chrome uses its own web clipboard. Why? I'm not 100% certain but I think it's so that you can preserve things when pasting across files or apps (like Spreadsheets to Documents, etc) which you can't do with the traditional system clipboard. Since the context-menu is also native to the app that it's running (in this case your Drive and Chrome are all connected together), the context-menu will behave differently when used in Firefox. This is because those specific options are looking to access the Chrome clipboard, which it cannot.

My answer becomes even more conjecture at this point: I would bet that the Ctrl+C event is overwritten in Chrome to copy/cut to the Chrome clipboard, but would naturally default to the system clipboard if not in Chrome. The context-menu doesn't behave the same way because, well, I have no idea :) Might be something to bring up in a product forum though...

  • Thanks for your answer. Fair enough if different places are used, but I couldn't understand why. To me, the right-click-then-choose-copy and Ctrl-C are both events that ought to be handled by the same event handling code, no? This same event handling code would not case how it was invoked and therefore surely ought to store the copy in the same place regardless of how it was triggered. Feb 8, 2013 at 1:02
  • Sort of, but not really...I added a little more context to the answer, hopefully that clears it up more. Feb 8, 2013 at 6:58
  • Updated the answer and it probably makes less sense now, amirite? :) Feb 8, 2013 at 7:07
  • On Linux, ctrl-C from Chrome does copy to the system clipboard; I can paste into most other applications, including Firefox. However, I cannot paste into a Google document in Firefox, no matter what I do. It doesn't matter what the source is (that is, what application hosted the ctrl-C).
    – Pointy
    Jun 14, 2016 at 0:19
  • Some reasoning here. Pretty annoying though.
    – Aelian
    Feb 23, 2018 at 16:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.