Sun 14 Aug 2011
In my previous blog post, I noted my surprise and distaste for the term “Pasteboard” over “Clipboard” in Mac OS X. It seemed like an unnecessary change in terminology. However, a friend and long-time Mac user later pointed out to me that OS X still calls it a Clipboard, for example, Edit→Show Clipboard in the Finder. In fact, he had never heard of a Pasteboard until reading my blog.
This encouraged me to dig a little deeper. The term “Pasteboard” was inherited from Mac OS X’s ancestor, NeXTSTEP, which used it in its user interface (see The Complete Guide to the NEXTSTEP User Environment for an example). “Pasteboard” is still used in Apple’s documentation for programmers. However, while NeXTSTEP may form the technical foundation for OS X, the classic Mac OS, which always used the term “Clipboard,” is the basis for Mac OS X’s user interface, so “Clipboard” has mostly won out.
So why does the X11 application use the term “Pasteboard”? I can only speculate that the X11’s developers wanted to the distinction between X11’s CLIPBOARD and OS X’s Clipboard as clear as possible, and that computer geeks, who are likely the only ones who would use X11 in the first place, would be familiar with the term.