What Is 'Drag-and-Drop' Functionality Online?

Here's what it means to drag something from a screen to another spot

Person using a glowing computer mouse

 WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

Drag-and-drop functionality has been around on the internet since its infancy. In fact, it's really a standard function that's been built right into many computer operating systems dating years back, even before most people had access to the internet.

What Does It Mean to "Drag-and-Drop"?

Drag-and-drop refers to manipulating objects on a computer by using the mouse. A very simple example would involve creating a shortcut icon on your desktop computer, clicking it and then dragging it to the other side of the screen.

These days, it's also a part of mobile technology. The same example described above can be similarly applied to the app icons you have on many different mobile devices, like an iPhone or iPad.

For these types of devices running on an iOS version, you'd simply hold the home button down until the app icons on the home screen become movable. You'd then use your finger (rather than a mouse for a computer) to touch the app you want to move and drag it around the touchscreen to the place where you want to drop it. It's as simple as that.

Common Ways to Use Drag-And-Drop Functionality on the Web

Uploading files. Many web browsers, programs, and web-based services that allow you to upload files often come with an uploader that supports the drag-and-drop function. WordPress is a good example of this. When you click to upload a media file to your WordPress site, you can drag-and-drop a file from a folder on your computer directly to the uploader rather than doing it all by clicking your mouse.

Designing graphics with a web-based tool. Since the drag-and-drop function is so intuitive and easy to use, it makes sense that various free graphic design tools work it into their interfaces. They generally include sidebars with a list of options you can choose to design your graphic — like shapes, icons, lines, images and more. Your job is to just find something you want, click it and drag it over to your graphic in the right place.

Shuffling folders around in Gmail or another type of service. Did you know that you can organize the folders in your Gmail account by clicking, dragging and dropping them into above or below each other? This is useful if you want to keep the most important folders at the top and the least important folders at the bottom. Lots of other services that allow you to create folders — like Digg Reader and Google Drive — allow you to do this too.

The thing about the easy and convenient drag-and-drop function is that it's not always so obvious to find on your favorite websites, programs, online services or mobile apps. Some of these actually have instruction-based tours that walk new users through some of the features and functions of their service, which is often an opportunity to learn about what you can drag and drop into place to make things easier.

Sometimes, however, you really just have to explore and experiment with the site, program, service or app that you're using to see if any of its features support drag-and-drop functionality. Try clicking your mouse on the desktop web or tapping and holding your finger on mobile to see if an object can be dragged around the screen.