Home Pastebud Brings Copy and Paste to the IPhone

Pastebud Brings Copy and Paste to the IPhone

The one feature that is still sorely missing from the iPhone is copy and paste. While we have seen a few third-party developers attempt to hack together a working system, none of these ever really worked out because they exploited loopholes in the iPhone operating system that Apple simply closed.

Today, however, copy and paste between Safari and Mail is really coming to the iPhone, courtesy of two nifty JavaScript bookmarks from Pastebud. Instead of trying to hack the operating system, Pastebud elegantly circumvents these problems by outsourcing most of the copy and paste mechanism to the web. We have been testing it for the last two days and it does indeed work as advertised.

You can use Pastebud on both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The devices don’t need to be jailbroken.

Interestingly, for Jed Schmidt, Pastebud’s developer, this is actually more of a side project, as his main interest is in machine translation. He is a freelance Japanese translator by trade and Pastebud is his first major software release.

How Does it Work

Safari to Mail, Safari to Safari

To start copying and pasting, you only have to bookmark two JavaScript files. You can do this either in the iPhone’s browser, or the browser whose bookmarks you sync to the iPhone. The final step is to delete the first few characters of the bookmark, as it isn’t possible to bookmark an actual script on the iPhone.

After this, you can start copying and pasting between Safari and Mail by simply bringing up the ‘copy’ bookmark. This will load a simplified version of the page you were looking at with a new Pastebud toolbar at the top, and thanks to some nifty JavaScript magic, you can then mark the text you want to copy and hit ‘copy’ to move the text to the clipboard.

Now, you can either copy the text directly into Safari by pressing the Mail icon in the toolbar, or you can browse to any other paste and open the ‘paste’ bookmark to copy the contents of the clipboard into any web form.

Mail to Safari, Mail to Mail

Of course, you can’t use bookmarks in Mail, but once again, Pastebud’s developers found an decent enough solution around this, though it is a bit cumbersome. To copy and paste from email, you have to forward the email to a private email address at pastebud, which will then return a link to your email’s text on Pastebud’s servers. This link will then take you to a web page, where you can now copy and paste any part of the message just as we described before.


Given that the clipboard lives on Pastebud’s servers, we were obviously concerned about the potential privacy risks. Except for when you copy from Safari to Mail, Pastebud’s servers are, after all, involved in every step of the copy and paste procedure. Acording to Jed Schmidt, however, all clipboards are deleted within five minutes and email addresses are not stored on the server at all. Pastebud is also considering to offer additional paid privacy features in the future.


Of course, this is only a workaround and it would be great if Apple provided iPhone users with a native solution. Until that happens, however, Pastebud is still the only working copy and paste solution for the iPhone.

It clearly has its limitations, as it only works between Safari and Mail, but it does solve a problem for a lot of users and it does so well. A $5 subscription to the service will remove the nag screen that regularly appears when you paste text, but we think this is well worth the money.

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