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Given that many people (myself included) use these functions a lot, wouldn't it make sense to have two keys that would replace Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V in modern keyboards?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by JonW Jun 18 at 15:33

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I'd personally prefer an "undo-key". –  uxfelix Jan 19 at 15:41
Do you seriously think that it would get used? I haven't counted how often I have seen people use the dedicated End key and how often they use a more cumbersome method to navigate to the end, frequently even changing a hand from the keyboard to the mouse. My gut estimation is that there is at least a 50:1 ratio. Ditto for just about every functional key outside of Enter and Escape. Most people seem to only use the symbol and modifier keys regularly. –  Rumi P. Jan 22 at 12:20
@RumiP. I think it would get used a whole not more than all the multi-media and "open web page" keys that you see on modern day keyboards. In your day to day work, do you hit CTRL+C more, or the volume adjustmanent or "play" key? –  André Jan 22 at 14:08
@André I agree that the user will have more occasion to use it than a "open browser" key. I still don't think that the user will actually use it, even when it is appropriate. By the way, the multimedia keys are frequently present, but in my experience, also mostly never used. Volume keys are an exception, and for a good reason: they are frequently needed during a task in which the user is not interacting with the computer, and sometimes their input is urgently needed (e.g. to mute deafening sound). So easily targeted volume controls are great, and frequently used. –  Rumi P. Jan 22 at 14:19
@André but if you are really convinced that the use of such a button would be great, try convincing the developers of a project you are working on to bind copy to one of the F keys and paste to another one, then promote copying with it within the application. Gather data to see how often it is used, as opposed to the usual shortcuts. Then tell us the result, because I am really curious how such an experiment would turn out. –  Rumi P. Jan 22 at 14:21
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7 Answers 7

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This is a good question for two reasons:

  1. Copy-paste is an ubiquitous operation,
  2. If you think about it, this is the same problem that is currently happening with touch devices. You have a hard time figuring out that you can use a 4 finger swipe to do an operation, but once you learn it, you become much productive.

This means that everyone will be performing this operation, but new keyboard users will have a hard time learning the operation.

The problem is (as BlueFlame pointed out), that the are several frequently performed operations. If you had a dedicated key for each one of them, your keyboard would be huge. This would mean that you were decreasing the learning time for operations and increasing the learning time for the keyboard.

Fitt's Law

Also, there is another think to take into consideration: Fitt's Law. Dedicated keys make the keyboard bigger, this means:

  1. Distance from regular key to special key increases
  2. Distance from mouse to special key might increase

Form Factors

Another think to take into consideration is that nowadays you have lots and lots of form factors al using the same keyboard (QWERTY). You can argue if this makes sense or not, but the truth is that no one finds it fun having to learn a new keyboard for interacting with a single device. Remember Nokia's keyboards?

So, hardware and software designers are still trying to figure out ways to make you productive, while ensuring that you don't have to learn a new keyboard for each device you own.

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Imagine a keyboard with only two keys: 0 and 1. Since all characters are represented in the computer as binary numbers, I can still type anything I want. For example, 00011100 would be A. To type Ctrl+C, I would do 00010100 00100001. Very cumbersome, but still possible.

A keyboard with only 0 and 1

If I were to add any key to this binary keyboard, it would be the E, as that is my most used key. Adding it would save me 7 key strokes. Multiply that by the number of times I typed E in a fixed amount of time, and the time I've saved becomes huge!

But as you use a key combination less frequently, the time saved by adding a specialized key for this combination diminishes. It's the law of diminishing returns.

If it were deemed time-saving enough to add a specialized Copy key, then surely all US International keyboards should have a th key.

So, to conclude: adding specialized Copy and Paste keys wouldn't save enough time. It wouldn't add enough value to the keyboard, at the cost of keyboard space.

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Such keys were in the original Xerox Star keyboard in 1981:

enter image description here (from http://www.digibarn.com/friends/curbow/star/keyboard/ where you can find more pictures).

I don't know why they didn't make it into the later hardware though. Incidentally, the removal of these keys has contributed in making keyboards very unbalanced with regard to use of hands: the right hand does most of the work. Cf. http://www.yorku.ca/mack/CHI01b.htm

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If you want this function as one button, get any Multimedia Keyboard and you will have these buttons built into it.

Coming to question should standard keyboards have this function or not then my answer is not.

The need of having such buttons is felt times and again but this need is unable to induce a change in the keyboard design because of a reason; unavailability of useful real-estate. A useable space on the keyboard which would be easier to use than pressing Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Keyboards that come with copy-paste keys place them either on the top, above Function Keys or they place it on lateral sides of the keyboard which are distant for a comfortable frequent use. Our keyboards sizes are designed keeping human hands, finger sizes and the comfortable stretch which is doable without instigating Repetitive Strain Injuries and in this design, there is no room to introduce 2 new buttons.

But I have another side question, is Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V the only combination of keys we use frequently? I think NOT. The most frequently used key and combination of keys would be SHIFT+[alphabetic keys] as we use this combination to capitalize letters and type special charters and there is no possible shortcut to these operations. Now when we are living with SHIFT+[key] combination, living with Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V is not much of a burden.

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This is a fairly good question and while I'm not supporting adding these particular keys into a keyboard, I'd like point out that not all keyboards are designed with the same set of keys nor are they all physical. E.g. I use the handwriting keyboard regularly for Chinese characters rather than typing out the ping-yin on a qwerty keyboard.

Keyboardless mobile touch devices have already begun to change the keyboard interface to suit their needs. The keyboards are app-centric, language, feature and mode dependent.

Note the international key and the microphone key: enter image description here

Even tapping is no longer an exclusive action with swiping becoming steadily popular.

Users will adapt to a better designed interface if it better suits their needs. If copy and paste actions are more important to them than say the 'Fn' key, then physical and historical constraints are not reasons for us not to replace them.

Having said that - I'd do more research before suggesting adding these particular keys to a keyboard. Plus I don't know what counts as a "modern" keyboard.

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I am strongly against adding stuff to anything that such a big standard. It's not a good idea to keep adding buttons for everything you need to do. Last time someone conceived this idea, he gave us the function keys and the pause-break and the insert button and scroll lock and many more and they do nothing more than adding clutter to every single keyboard in the world and no matter how hard apple and google chromebook try to get rid of them, it's just not gonna happen.

Am sorry if I got carried away, I've a personal rage about keyboard clutter.

enter image description here

I think this is the keyboard that should've been standard with maybe a set of a few programmable buttons on the side.

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Microsoft had a "Microsoft Office" keyboard, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, with dedicated cut, copy and paste buttons, and scrolling wheel, in an extra section of the keyboard that extended to the left of the QWERTY area. I still have two of them in use. The people who use them are crazy in love with them, and even bring them home and back to work some days. Can't get them anymore. 3 years ago I picked up two on ebay. It was a perfect implementation of what was needed, and the keys were placed in a great location too.

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