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IE 7 and the Clipboard

I downloaded the new Internet Explorer 7 and ever since, I keep getting some sort of clipboard message when I’m visiting Web sites. What’s all this about?

Excellent question! This actually came to our attention last week when it happened to one of our staff members. I figured it probably had already happened to some of you too and sure enough, I received an e-mail a couple days later from a reader asking about it. So, all in all, this is the perfect time to tackle this topic.

Now, before I go any further, some of you may still be stuck on the word “clipboard.” You may be wondering what the clipboard is and what it does. Well, let me explain this first. The Windows clipboard is a component of any Windows operating system, so everyone has one. The only difference is it works a little differently than some of the other programs that come along with it. It is mainly used to store your information, such as files, images, documents, etc. All of these items are able to be placed on your clipboard. Then, once the information has been copied to the clipboard, it can be pasted to any other location on your computer.

For example, if you found some information on a Web site that you wanted to place into a Word document, you could copy it to your clipboard and then paste it from there. Now, the confusing part about this is that you can’t really access the clipboard like you can other programs. It is a built in Windows component and it works transparently. Whenever you copy something, that information is automatically placed on your clipboard. You can’t see it, but it’s always there. Then when you go to paste that information into another program, it’s taken from the clipboard and if everything is compatible, the information will transfer. I know this is a little hard to understand, so if you’re still having trouble, click here [1] for a couple more examples that may clear things up for you.

Okay, now back to the Internet Explorer issue at hand. Before version 7, Internet Explorer has been set to allow any Web site to read any of the data that is stored on your clipboard. Sometimes, that may not be in your best interest, so IE 7 has some made some changes in that aspect. When you’re using IE 7 and the clipboard option is about to happen, you will receive a pop up notification about it. The prompt will say “Do you want to allow this Web page to access your clipboard? If you allow this, the Web page can access the clipboard and read information that you’ve cut or copied recently.” You can then either hit the “Allow access” button or the “Don’t allow” option.

This is basically just a new feature you can use to help keep your information more private. For example, if you happen to copy any of your personal information, it will be available on your clipboard. It will remain there until you copy or cut more information to cover it up, so it’s best to keep it as private and as safe as possible. So, if a Web site you’re looking at in Internet Explorer tries to take that information, you can now deny it access.

Luckily, there is a way you can stop the clipboard access all the way around as well, if that’s the way you prefer it to be. To do this, open up IE and go to Tools, Internet Options and click on the Security tab. From there, click on the Custom Level button and scroll down until you see the section for Scripting. The second option will be “Allow Programmatic clipboard access.” Change the default setting to Disable (or Enable, if that’s what you want). Click OK twice to exit and you’ll be good to go.

Now, just as a side note. The information you put on your clipboard will also disappear when you log out of or turn off your computer. But, always keep in mind that it will be there until you replace it or shut down. Also, just to let you know, other Web browsers like Firefox and Opera do not allow this clipboard thing to happen at all. Although that may make IE look bad, at least they’re now taking this into consideration and they’re letting you make the choice. Do whatever is best for you!

~ Erin