How do I copy to the clipboard in JavaScript?

Matthew C.

The Problem

You want to copy to the clipboard in JavaScript. Perhaps you want to allow a user to copy a snippet of text or an image when a button is clicked. How do you do this?

The Solution

If you only need to support modern browsers, use the Clipboard Web API. It allows you to asynchronously read from and write to the system clipboard. You can access the system clipboard through the Navigator global interface.

The Clipboard API is relatively new and its integration into many browsers is still in progress, due to technical issues and potential security issues. You can see the browser compatibility of the Clipboard API methods in this browser compatibility table.

The Clipboard API is a replacement for the older Web API document.execCommand method. It’s recommended to not use the document.execCommand method as it’s depreciated. The method may stop working at any time. You can use the clipboard-polyfill library if you need to support older browsers or Clipboard methods in specific browsers. You can also try using this example fallback function.

The Clipboard API is limited to handling text and images in most browsers. Browsers usually sanitize the copied clipboard data as a security measure. For example, to remove embedded script elements. In Chrome version 104+, Web Custom formats are supported, which lets developers write unsanitized data to the clipboard. There are cases where having un-sanitized data in the clipboard is useful:

  • The application may deal with sanitization itself.
  • The copied data needs to be identical to the pasted data.

You can read more about this in the following article: Web custom formats for the Async Clipboard API.

Copying Text to the Clipboard

The example copyTextToClipboard function below takes in text to copy to the clipboard as an argument and then uses the clipboard.writeText() method to copy the text to the clipboard:

async function copyTextToClipboard(textToCopy) { try { if (navigator?.clipboard?.writeText) { await navigator.clipboard.writeText(textToCopy); } } catch (err) { console.error(err); } }

This async function uses a try ...catch block to check that navigator, navigator.clipboard, and navigator.clipboard.writeText exist. This checks for browser compatibility. The writeText() function returns a Promise that’s resolved or rejected depending on whether the passed-in text is copied to the clipboard successfully.

The copyTextToClipboard function can be written to return a Promise instead of waiting for the writeText() function’s Promise to be resolved or rejected:

function copyTextToClipboard(textToCopy) { if (navigator?.clipboard?.writeText) { return navigator.clipboard.writeText(textToCopy); } return Promise.reject('The Clipboard API is not available.'); }

This function returns a Promise that resolves when the clipboard’s contents have been updated.

To call the writeText() method, the user has to have recently interacted with the page: transient user activation is required. For example, the user clicked a button that calls the copyTextToClipboard function. This is a security feature that prevents malicious code from abusing the API. Copying to the clipboard should only occur when a user interacts with a page.

To write text to the clipboard, the page must be served over HTTPS and the experimental “clipboard-write” permission of the Permissions API is needed for browsers that support the permission. This permission is granted automatically to pages in the active browser tab. The Permissions API can be queried to determine the “clipboard-read” and “clipboard-write” permission status.

Copying an Image to the Clipboard

The Clipboard write() method writes arbitrary data to the clipboard, such as an image. It takes in an array of ClipboardItem objects, which contain data that will be written to the clipboard, as an argument. To write an image to the clipboard, you need to have the image as a blob. You can convert an image URL, such as an image from a server, to a blob by getting an image using fetch() and then calling the blob() method on the response. You can also draw an image to a canvas and create an image blob using the toBlob() method of the canvas element.

The copyImgToClipboard function below uses fetch() and the blob() method to copy an image from an image URL to the clipboard:

async function copyImgToClipboard(imgUrl) { try { const data = await fetch(imgUrl); const blob = await data.blob(); await navigator.clipboard.write([ new ClipboardItem({ [blob.type]: blob, }), ]); console.log('Image copied.'); } catch (err) { console.error(err.name, err.message); } }

This function needs to be modified to work in the Safari browser. You can read more about this in the following article: Unblocking clipboard access.

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