Mobility

Android Pie has a text select magnifier (sort of)

Android Pie significantly improves the text selection feature—with a very limited application. Jack Wallen explains.

One of the problems many Android users experience over the years is copying text. You can long-press a word, and then move the blue drag handles until you have the exact text you need copying. Once you copied it, you can paste it anywhere you like. The problem with the process is always seeing exactly what you're copying. When those characters are that small, sometimes it's hard to get any sort of precision involved. There are too many instances where selecting text for copying becomes more frustrating and time-consuming than it would to just type out said text.

SEE: Job description: Android developer (Tech Pro Research)

With the release of Android Pie, copying text is significantly easier (and more precise). Unfortunately, this new feature is pretty limited.

Now, when you go to select text for copying, a magnified version of the text appears above it (Figure A), thereby making the selection of the text to be copied much easier.

Figure A

Figure A

The text copy magnification in action.

This magnification feature will make a lot of users happy. I, for one, always have issues copying text on my Android with any level of accuracy. With Pie, this is no long the case—so long as the text I need to copy is in the supported location.

The caveat

Said limitation lies in where the magnification of the text select feature works. Instead of this being a global feature, the magnifier only appears in text input fields. That's right, the magnification of selected text only happens in places like message composition areas and web browser address bars (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

The magnification feature in the Firefox address bar.

That is absolutely fantastic for those who proof and edit messages they send (which everyone should). But it does absolutely nothing for selecting text in other locations. So, if you're hoping for an easier time copying text from web pages, emails, and SMS messages, you'll be disappointed.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Is this a glimpse of the future?

Hopefully, this new select magnification feature is a glimpse of what future text select will be like in Android. But for this to be really effective, that feature needs to make its way into other locations (like web pages, emails, SMS messages, and more). Without including the feature in those areas, it is really only useful for editing text input.

But even with the limitation, this is a much-welcomed feature for Android —so long as the developers plan on extending the feature to the rest of the platform (otherwise it'll wind up a failed experiment).

I will say that cut/copy/paste in Android has come quite a long way since inception. In the early days of Android, that particular task was an exercise in abject frustration. So kudos to the developers for constantly improving a fairly important aspect of the platform.

Also see

piehero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox