Objects that can be placed on a clipboard must implement the Transferable interface. This interface defines a number of methods that let an object describe how it presents itself to clipboard readers. That sounds complex, but it isn't really; these methods let a clipboard reader find out what data flavors are available and what Java types they represent.
The significance of the Transferable interface is that it provides a way to get information about the object on the clipboard without knowing what the object actually is. When you read the clipboard, you don't necessarily know what kind of object is there. It might be some kind of text string, but it could just as likely be something bizarre. However, you shouldn't have to care. If you're looking for a String, you care only that the object exists in a stringFlavor representation. These methods let you ask the object what flavors it supports.
For text strings, the data transfer package provides a StringSelection class that implements Transferable. At this point, if you want to transfer other kinds of objects, you'll have to create a class that implements Transferable yourself. It wouldn't be unreasonable for JavaSoft to provide other "selection" classes (for example, ImageSelection) in the future. Methods
The getTransferDataFlavors() method should return a sorted array of DataFlavors that you support. The most descriptive flavor should be the first element in the array and the least descriptive, last. For example, a textual object would place DataFlavor.plainTextFlavor last, because it has less information than DataFlavor.stringFlavor (which includes information like the length of the string) and much less information than a hypothetical flavor like DataFlavor.richTextFlavor.
The isDataFlavorSupported() method should return true if the object supports the given flavor and false otherwise.
The getTransferData() method is the most complicated to implement. It should return an instance of the class representing the data in the given flavor. If flavor is not supported by this object, getTransferData() must throw the UnsupportedFlavorException. However, this method must be able to return a class for each flavor the object supports (i.e., each data flavor listed by getTransferDataFlavors()). The method could throw an IOException when returning with a Reader as the representation class. For example, if some data flavor required you to return a FileReader and the file doesn't exist, this method might throw an IOException.