Microsoft Eases Data Sharing on Android With Clip Layer App

A new Microsoft app called Clip Layer allows users to select, copy and share practically any content that appears on an Android screen.

Copy-paste is a time-honored way of transferring information between apps. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done on many Android apps.

Microsoft has released a new Android app called Clip Layer that enables users to copy and share content from practically any app. Clip Layer aims to solve some of the common problems faced by smartphone owners seeking to quickly share information between apps, particularly those that don't offer clipboard functionality.

With a practiced hand, PC users can quickly select, copy and share images and snippets of text with a quick swipe and a couple of mouse clips. Keyboard modifiers and shortcuts also make it trivially easy to gather and manage odds and ends from most applications and later drop them into another.

On a smartphone, clipping content can be a struggle. Users press and prod their handsets, coaxing on-screen selection bars and boxes into the proper alignment before the desired information can be copied to the clipboard. Of course, not all apps offer clipboard support.

Clip Layer from Microsoft Garage, the company's experimental consumer app unit, solves this by using a universal smart overlay technology that works with practically every Android app. The app can be launched by pressing and holding down the home key on an Android smartphone. Clip Layer then allows users to tap on screen to select a snippet or two, even if the underlying app doesn't natively allow users to highlight content. Users can them copy the snippets to the clipboard, share them to another app or sync across devices using Wunderlist.

Like Hub Keyboard, another app from the group, Clip Layer is meant to break down the barriers between siloed apps, according to Steve Won, Clip Layer's creator and a senior designer at Microsoft Office. Hub Keyboard expands on the smartphone typing experience by providing quick access to recently copied items, contacts, shared Office documents and translation services.

"There's been a lot of growth with smartphones and ecosystems, as there are more apps that come into stores, but the same problem keeps persisting: less apps able to talk with each other, as they're designed to work independent of each other," he stated in a Nov. 29 announcement. "But while the keyboard is focused on input and only shows up when the app allows input, Clip Layer has more coverage and works on any screen. Hub Keyboard was focused composing, and this one is focused on sharing and re-using what already exists."

Clip Layer isn't the only Android-exclusive app from Microsoft Garage.

Earlier this year, the company released Arrow, a personalized launcher that automatically arranges apps based on a person's usage patterns. The app also features a customizable dock and rapid access to Office documents from the Documents screen for Office 365 users. Excel users on the go can download the aptly-named Keyboard for Excel app, which contains a layout that prioritizes operators and is geared toward numerical data entry.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...