Copy to Clipboard Without Using Flash!

By: Marin Abernethy

For a long time we’ve had to rely on Flash plugins like ZeroClipboard to copy text to the clipboard. While Flash still remains the only cross-browser solution for copying to a user’s clipboard, some browsers have recently added the ability to trigger cut and copy using document.execCommand()! Specifically, IE10+, Chrome 43+, and Opera29+. Firefox seems to have some options that allow users to grant permissions to certain sites to access the clipboard, but I haven’t tried it out myself.

For those of you not familiar with execCommand(), it is more than just cut and copy! It is one of the core methods of rich-text editing in browsers. You can manipulate the contents of the current document, current selection, or a specified range through various commands. Some other common commands include: bold, delete, createLink, and indent.

execCommand(commandName [, showUI [, value]])

  • commandName (String): the property that you are validating.
  • showUI (Boolean) optional: Display a user interface if the command supports one. Defaults to false.
  • value (DOMString) optional: Specifies the string, number, or other value to assign. Possible values depend on the command. Pass an argument of null if no argument is needed.

Note: You must set document.designMode = "on", or set contenteditable="true" on the element that you wish to use execCommand() on.

However, like cut and copy, not all commands are enabled across all browsers. I created an Ember JSBin with a simple WYSIWYG to demonstrate some of what execCommand() can do. Feel free to play around!

Now to demonstrate how execCommand paired with the Selection API can easily copy to a user’s clipboard. Below is our HTMLBars with a promo code string that we want to copy.

<p>Promo code: <span class="promo-code">SALE123</span></p>
<p><button {{action "copyToClip"}}>Copy</button></p>

When the Copy button is clicked, the following action will be called:

copyToClip: function() {
  const promoCode = document.querySelector('.promo-code');
  const range = document.createRange();  

In this action we create a range of the document and add our promo code text as a node of that range. We then use the Selection API method window.getSelection().addRange() to add the part of the document we want to copy to the user’s selection. document.execCommand('copy') then copies that selection to the clipboard. And finally, we remove the selection by calling window.getSelection().removeAllRanges() so that the user never sees the highlighting.

And that’s it! If you wanted to confirm everything worked as expected you can examine the response of document.execCommand(); it returns false if the command is not supported or enabled.

You can check this example out in this Ember JSBin.