The other day I wanted to be able to copy/paste files to an HTML textarea. like in Github or GitLab. Since I’m not a frontend expert I quickly browsed to MDN.

<textarea id="mytextarea"></textarea>
const myTextArea = document.querySelector("#mytextarea")
myTextArea.addEventListener("paste", (e) => {
  let paste = (event.clipboardData || window.clipboardData).files;

Even if you didn’t read the doc, you might think that if you paste some text, the files element would be empty. Think twice.

The clipboardData object contains 2 DataTransferItems objects that are iterator, files and items. An iterator means, once you have consulted it, data is gone.

In fact it depends on what you are copying… If you copy raw text, then files will be empty But if you paste rich text, like from Words or other visual editor, then the clipboard will have 4 elements.

Yes 4 elements.

  1. rich text
  2. rtf
  3. raw text
  4. an image of the rich text, in case you could not handle it properly but wants to diplay it anyway

I did not found any solution to this on the internet. Even ChatGPT was wrong.

So here is how I handled it after maybe one hour of try-n-die:

function getFilesFromPasteEvent(event) {
    if ((event.clipboardData || event.orginalEvent.clipboardData).getData('text') != '') {
        return [];
    return Array.from((event.clipboardData || event.originalEvent.clipboardData).files);

function uploadAttachment(files) {
    //do what you have to do

const textAreaElem = document.querySelector("textarea")
textAreaElem.addEventListener("paste", (event) => {
    const files = getFilesFromPasteEvent(event);
    if (files.length > 0) {

In the end the code is not that complex but it took me a while to understand what to.