Clip Layer

Microsoft • 2016
A universal overlay that can be launched over any app to allow easy snippet selection
Microsoft profile page
Role
Design & Development
This was a self-started project at Microsoft, which began around April 2016 and shipped V1 in November 2016. It was a single-person team, which allowed me to drive a vision from the very beginning to the actual release. My responsibilities included defining problem space, creating the concept along with a future roadmap, and building the software implementation of Clip Layer.
Problem space
Phone has become the center of how I consume news, updates, interesting content, and other types of feeds. When I find something interesting or something I care about, I want to relay it for another purpose. However, two problems stuck out.
Problem 1: Because the selection model and actions available per information snippet are defined by the local app, there are many cases where users don’t have the controls they seek.
Problem 2: In places where selection is available, interaction methods aren’t always intuitive (It is often press & hold then precisely drag two draggers on each end).
Direction
What if there were...
A universal overlay that can be launched over any screen in a quick and intuitive manner to easily
  • Select information snippet
  • Copy the selected snippet
  • Act on the selected snippet
Key features
  1. Invoke Clip Layer by pressing & holding on the home key. Because the home key is accessible for all devices, this was a universal interaction well suited for Clip Layer.
  2. Show selectable snippets with a bounding box. At that point, tap on one or more snippets.
  3. Copy to clipboard, Save across devices via Wunderlist, Email or Share to another app.
  4. Optionally, see what the selected snippets are through the “T” button on top right.
Release
Clip Layer was released on Android on November 29, 2016.
Android app retired from Microsoft's Play Store account in 2018.
Feedback from public after 48 hours of release
Press & mentions
  1. Microsoft // New Microsoft Garage mobile app, Clip Layer, provides easy sharing of information across Android apps
    ...From Clip Layer, he wants to find out if the overlay approach solves the problem of sharing when there isn’t an obvious way of doing so in an app. And, he wants to find out what people do with the information – do they email it or share it on social media? How do they make use of it?...
  2. Microsoft // Project profile page
    ...After leading the Hub Keyboard project earlier this year, it became clear once again to me that experimenting and learning from real users are very valuable. I am excited to do the same for Clip Layer and imagine what a capture experience can be moving forward...
  3. Thurrott // Microsoft Clip Layer Brings Better Copy and Share Functionality to Android
    ...Clip Layer is pretty impressive, especially for anyone who has tried to use the terrible Android text selector before: It highlights each textual and graphical element on-screen so you can just tap each to select the ones you wish to copy or share...
  4. PC World // Microsoft takes the pain out of copying on Android with Clip Layer
    ...it’s definitely a cool spin on the usual clunky method...
    ...Clip Layer is a perfect example of why we love Android so much. It’s not just that Microsoft has created a better way to copy text; if it wasn’t accessible in such an easy way Clip Layer wouldn’t be nearly as useful. Even though it might not be perfect, the ability to make and implement an outside-the-box tool like this is one of Android’s greatest strengths...
  5. The Tech Portal // Microsoft’s ‘Clip Layer’ app will help Android users escape from the copy/paste annoyance
    ...it is a beneficial deal viewing the excessive use of copy and paste by smartphone users — especially those who carry out office work on it...
    ...Along with Clip Layer, Android user-ability has been continuously enhancing....
  6. Android Community // Microsoft Clip Layer lets you take snippets from apps and share them
    ...Like many of the Microsoft Garage projects, this started out with one employee noticing that they needed to create something because there is a problem with the current system. Steve Won, a senior designer with the Office team, said that he liked to share the things he comes across on various apps but there wasn’t an easy way to do it across all the apps. And so Clip Layer was born out of that observation...
  7. The Next Web // Microsoft’s new app tries to fix Android’s copy and paste problem
  8. VentureBeat // Microsoft’s latest experimental Android app lets you easily copy and share text onscreen
  9. lifehacker // Microsoft's Clip Layer Makes It Easy to Copy Text From Any Screen
  10. Phone Arena // Microsoft Garage's Clip Layer aims to solve Android's terrible copy-paste abilties
  11. Android Authority // Microsoft’s latest Android exclusive lets you clip and save from any app
  12. Android Police // Microsoft's Clip Layer app lets you copy text from any screen by long-pressing the home button
  13. AndroidHeadlines // Clip Layer Allows you to Grab Snippets From Anywhere
  14. MSPowerusr // Clip Layer, a new Microsoft Garage app that enables easy sharing of info across Android apps
  15. eWeek // Microsoft Eases Data Sharing on Android With Clip Layer App