Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cut and Paste—webOS vs Classic PalmOS

One of the big albatrosses around the neck of the iPhone was it's lack of support, until recently, of copy and paste functions. So naturally Palm has trumpeted loudly that the new Palm Pre supports copy and paste from day one. And it does but there's a problem—actually two problems. Palm's copy and paste doesn't work everywhere and it doesn't work as well as it did under the older PalmOS operating system.

In order to copy and paste text in the Palm Pre's webOS, you tap to place the cursor at the beginning of the block of text you want to copy, hold down the shift key, and drag your finger horizontally to choose the text you intend to copy. Then you choose "Edit" from the drop down menu and select ." Palm has even created a little shortcut where you can tap and hold your finger in the gesture area and it acts like an unlabeled Menu key—the Pre will cut, copy, or paste whenever you press the "x," "c," or "v" keys on the keyboard. Pretty slick right? Actually, in the old PalmOS it was even easier to copy and paste. You could simply drag your finger across the text you wanted to copy and select "Cut," "Copy," or "Paste" from the edit menu which is even easier and more intuitive than with the Pre's webOS. In fact, I was so used to this way of doing things from my PalmOS devices that at first the webOS felt more awkward because I was trying to drag my finger across the text I wanted to copy when I was supposed to first place the cursor and drag my finger horizontally in the direction that I wanted the selction to move. This feels confusing and unintuitive, the older PalmOS way of doing things feels simpler to me.

Of course the older PalmOS was designed for PDAs and smartphones with different types of touchscreens than webOS. PalmOS was optimized for use with a stylus while webOS is designed for use with a finger. Could this be the reason for the Pre's Cut and Paste method? If only there were a way to compare these two methods side by side. There is—MotionApps' Classic emulator allows us to run PalmOS apps side by side with webOS apps. So I loaded the webOS Memos application and PsMemo within Classic. And it turns out that it's just as easy and intuitive to use the PalmOS Copy and Paste method in an emulated PalmOS app on my Palm Pre as it is on a Treo or a Palm TX.

I suppose that it doesn't make much difference one way or the other—the Palm Pre cuts, copies, and pastes just fine. It's just interesting how in the march of progress we sometimes take a tiny step back even as we move ahead.

One thing that does make a significant difference to me is the fact that webOS' copy and paste only works in text fields. As a result, you can't copy a block of text from your browser and paste it into a memo or anywhere else. The PalmOS web browser, primitive as it was, has always been able to do this and it should be simple to implement. Of course it this is so simple why did it take Apple, many times larger and richer than Palm, so long to implement it in the iPhone? Even Android, which is made by Google and had copy and paste on day one, took over a year to implement it in its browser. So perhaps I should cut Palm some slack.

Nevetheless, this does have a practical downside. I have secured my home wifi hotspot with a long 63-character wifi password. It's easy for me to put this key in a text file on a flash drive copy and paste it into any laptop that connects to my home network. It's also easy to put it into a memo and copy and paste it onto my Palm TX. With my T-Mobile G1 it was a little harder. First I had to find an Android application that could read text files and copy and paste. Once I had done that, it was easy to copy a text file to the G1 and copy and paste the wifi key.

With the Palm Pre it was even more of a challenge. While I had imported my old PIM data into Classic, including a memo with my wifi key; Classic sadly does not appear to support copying and pasting data between PalmOS and webOS applications. And neither does the Pre's built-in document viewer, the text file option was out. After trying several solutions, I concluded that the easiest solution was to email the wifi key to myself and open the email in my Palm Pre. But since the email application only displays the email I wasn't out of the woods yet. I had to tap reply in order to place the text of the email into a text field so I could copy and paste the key. Once I did that, I finally had access to my wifi hotspot on the Pre. That's not exactly what I'd call elegant.


VetDoctor said...

Thanks for the post from a PIC reader. Copy/Paste is perhaps "the" feature I use on the palm. I constatly copy web lines and Google them, or copy a paragraph I want to save.

Not an early adopter I'l hold out for the Pre-II (to be named the "Post").

Mike Cane said...

Aren't you able to put your key in the corkboard Notes and copy from that?

Bob Castillo said...

You'd think so wouldn't you?

Actually I do have the key in my corkboard Memos app now. But first I had to get it onto my Pre. The Memo app however doesn't appear to sync to anything. And for that matter, neither does the Tasks app. So they can only create data which remains on the Pre, they can't suck down data from a desktop application like Palm Desktop or from a cloud application like GMail. And their data can't be read and modified by another computer.

If I put the key in a text file, the built-in Doc Viewer can display it but it doesn't support copy and paste. So email is the best choice for my purposes.

What Palm should have done with the Memo and Tasks apps is what they did with the Contacts app, make it possible to link it to GMail or some other cloud app so it would be easy to create, edit, and exchange data between the desktop and the Pre. This would have more or less replicated the functionality of the Palm Desktop with the web browser replacing a stand alone desktop app.

Mike Cane said...

I hope you'll do a post about Classic at some point.

Bob Castillo said...

I probably will do one soon.