If a user hasn't copied anything, would it be a good idea to disable the "Paste" menu entry and replace the text with "Nothing to Paste" instead of just disabling it?

Menus aren't always static, often "Undo" has some text added to explain what will be undone ("Undo Remove Folder" for example). Other examples of dynamic text I have seen is "Copy 4 items" if 4 items are selected, instead of just "Copy".

Since it's a OS controlled menu, I can't do anything with hover effects to modally give the user an idea of why "Paste" is disabled.

  • The user will see that nothing appears if he does a copy-paste from an empty clipboard. Isn't it sufficient? Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 11:55
  • That might be enough in that case, but in other cases the user might not know why menu items are disabled. "Did I not press ctrl+c or is that item not pasteable in this context?" This question is more in general, not Paste in particular. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Either way is fine.

Of course, replacing the text with "Nothing to Paste" is much more clear and understandable than just disabled "Paste" menu entry, which is good for UX.

However it seems to be standard to leave the disabled entry unchanged, like on Windows explorer, you won't find a dynamic disabled paste entry. This way is also friendly for UX because it's the standard experience and something that users are used with. Please note that if content in clipboard is invalid for pasting a content in Windows explorer (such as you can't paste plain text in a folder), then paste entry will be disabled.

My conclusion that it's best to stick with the standard way, leave it just disabled paste instead of adding something dynamic, also a long text "There's nothing to paste" may unnecessarily extend the width of context menu.

  • I agree that it's often good practice to follow standards, but sometimes one have to question them :) I am not convinced to follow standard in this case... Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:26
  • @HenrikEkblom I agree it's not always good idea to follow the standard. However, how would you handle an invalid clipboard like I mentioned earlier in my answer? "There's nothing to paste" entry text isn't exactly suitable for "unpasteable" content. I think it would be best to follow the standard in this case.
    – dmxt
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:36
  • "Can't Paste item" is probably better since the user at least gets a clue that there's something wrong with the copied item. I know that every possible situation can't be handled but I'm guessing that some cases ("Can't paste content", "Nothing to Paste" etc) is better than none... Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:41
  • @HenrikEkblom Are you planning to use "Can't paste content" menu entry for a blank clipboard?
    – dmxt
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 17:59
  • In that case, the text can be "Nothing to Paste" Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 11:43

Disable option tells you that you are not eligible to access this feature because of 1: f permissions 2: or they are dependent on another action & gets invoked after an action. You can keep them disable and give an explanation on hover[not mandatory]

  • "Since it's a OS controlled menu, I can't do anything with hover effects to modally give the user an idea of why "Paste" is disabled." Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:30
  • yes, agree. You can check some desktop application like photoshop etc.
    – UXbychoice
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:37
  • If there's nothing to Undo in Photoshop, Undo is disabled and text is changed to "Nothing to Undo", they do (in some cases) change their menu texts... Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:45

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