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Summary:

The clipboard in a modern operating system is one of the most useful and practical tools available. Being able to select some text or images, copy them to the clipboard, and then paste them in other places is indispensable (look at the uproar over the fact […]

Clipping

The clipboard in a modern operating system is one of the most useful and practical tools available. Being able to select some text or images, copy them to the clipboard, and then paste them in other places is indispensable (look at the uproar over the fact that the iPhone OS 1.0 & 2.0 did not support a clipboard to see how valuable it is). You most likely use it without giving it another thought.

The standard clipboard behavior is that when you copy a new item, it replaces the existing item. You can’t go back to the previous item as there is no history of items copied. This is what a Clipboard Manager does, providing a memory and browsing history so you can paste something, and then find it later, even after using the clipboard multiple times.

There are quite a few Clipboard Managers available for OS X, some free, some not. Here’s a quick overview of what is on offer and what they can and can’t do.

Clipper

Clipper is the most simple of the clipboard managers available. It sits in the menu bar and allows no-frills access to text clipboard history. It’s an open sourced tool that provides no keyboard shortcuts, but does the job for a simple text clipboard manager.

Clipper

Jumpcut

Jumpcut is another open source clipboard manager that focuses on the basic text history. A customizable hotkey will let you cycle through the various items in the history with an on-screen overlay, or you can directly select an item from the menu bar.

Jumpcut1

Jumpcut2

Clyppan

Originally also known as Clipper in earlier versions (name changed to avoid confusion with the Clipper mentioned above), Clyppan is an open source solution that sits in the menu bar, popping up with a customizable hotkey to let you see what’s in the history. Clyppan only supports text clippings, but the history is searchable and pressing the spacebar will give you a Quick Look-style preview of the clipping. It also has a rapid paste function, which pastes the current item, and then sets the clipboard to the next item; this lets you copy lots of items in a row to then quickly paste later on.

Clyppan

ClipMenu

ClipMenu is a freeware clipboard manager that offers support for both text and images. It sits in the menu bar and will break the history into browsable menu sections to avoid UI crowding. It has customizable hotkeys and many functional aspects are configurable, including being able to hold control when selecting an item to perform configurable ‘Actions’ before pasting (such as converting to upper case). ClipMenu also lets you configure regular text clippings for quick access to items you use often.

ClipMenu

Savvy Clipboard

Savvy Clipboard is the simplest of the paid offerings, costing $12 (a free trial available). It supports both text and images in the clipboard and provides customizable hotkeys for accessing it.

Savvy Clipboard

PTHPasteboard

PTHPasteboard is comprehensive clipboard manager that supports multiple text and image clipboards. The normal version is free, while a Pro version is available for $24.95 that allows you to share and synchronize clipboards across multiple Macs, as well as run configurable filters on text (such as converting to upper case). Full configuration of hotkeys and aspects of the UI is present and you can search the clipboard history to find what you’re looking for.

PTHPasteboard

iClip

iClip is a beautifully designed application (perhaps too fancy for a simple tool) that can behave in a Dock-like way, staying attached to a side of the screen and popping out when the mouse goes to the edge. iClip can handle images as well as text, and also allows groupings of permanently availably items, providing quick access to often used resources. It has fully customizable keyboard and UI behavior support. iClip costs $29 and a free trial (which can be run 30 times) can be downloaded to try it out first. Also available is iClip Lite, which is a completely free Dashboard Widget that allows you to view the clipboard history. If you only need basic use and like using dashboard widgets, the lite version may fit your needs.

iClip

Clipboard Evolved

Clipboard Evolved offers multiple custom-named clipboards for both text and images for $15 (a free trial is available). It offers full keyboard hotkey customizing and various UI options (such as a Dock-like display) including various quartz graphics transition effects (and thus requires OS X 10.5).

Clipboard Evolved

Cute Clips

Cute Clips is another OS X 10.5 only clipboard manager. It costs $15 and a free 15 day trial is available. It supports both text and images and focuses on a rich UI experience and provides features such as ‘stickying’ a clipping (so it will stay in that position and not drop off), naming a clipboard item, or giving a specific clipping a keyboard shortcut.

CuteClips

Stuf

Like PTHPasteboard, Stuf (formally known as Shadow) offers a shared clipboard across multiple Macs. It lets you create multiple clipboards and elect to make them visible to other Macs. It supports text and images, lets you search the clipboards, allows a customizable hotkey and provides Quick Look integration by pressing the spacebar. Stuf costs around $20 and a 30 day trial is available.

Stuf

Which one?

There’s a great range of choices for clipboard managers on OS X — all which add great utility to the built in clipboard. I personally have been using Clyppan for a while now as I don’t deal with images often — the fact that it handles text only is no problem for me. However all of the options do their job well so it really just comes down to your workflow requirements and personal usability preference. If you’ve never used a clipboard manager before, give one a try.

  1. Another great clipboard manager is Shovebox by Wonder Warp Software: http://www.wonderwarp.com/shovebox. What’s great is that they have a iPhone app so you can sync your notes, images, etc.

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    1. Perhaps the most venerable of them all, CopyPaste

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  2. Why no mention of using Quicksilver as a clipboard manager? You can set the number of captured items, browse, or search, do pretty much anything you would need to do. Plus, it has the added benefit of the Shelf.

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    1. Perhaps the most venerable of them all, CopyPaste

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  3. Perhaps the most venerable of them all, CopyPaste. It took a while for a Leopard version but it is back with more functionality than it had in OS9.

    http://www.scriptsoftware.com/copypaste/

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  4. Ben Huebscher Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    I really like Shadow Clipboard from stupidFish programming (http://www.stupidfish23.com/). I have iClip but I just find it to be slow and resource hungry. I really only use it to have a history of the last 10 clipboard items and I find it to be extremly lightweight and fast. It stays out of the way until I need it.

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  5. [...] There are quite a few Clipboard Managers available for OS X, some free, some not. Check out 10 of them over at The Apple Blog. [...]

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  6. Great article…!

    I’ve been using Savvy Clipboard for a while now but looking to change. It has a nasty habit of forgetting the odd clipping! Also, it looks a bit too ‘OS9′.

    Clyppan is a great find! Nice and fast, and looks modern. Just wish it had image support……

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  7. I usually use the clipboard bundled with the launcher I’m using. First I found Butler because of its clipboard feature, and loved it.

    Then I moved on to Quicksilver which took the clipboard to another level. It allowed me to interact with the clipboard items like I would with any other item in QS. Then I found the shelf and life was complete. The clipboard and shelf modules are extremely hard to set up though, not sure why alcor made it so hard.

    Now I’m trying out LaunchBar and its clipboard. It has a neat feature where you can combine clippings with a ClipMerge functionality. My only gripe with LaunchBar is no real ‘shelf’ like functionality yet.

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  8. In my opinion ClipMenu is the best: freeware, snippets feature, it’s just great.
    I’ve also written a review of Clipmenu on my blog here.

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  9. In the past I have used Butler, then PTHPasteboard. Currently I use LaunchBar 5

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  10. if you are like me and 95% of your routine cut-and-pastes are down in-browser – and you use FireFox, then I would HIGHLY recommend using the ‘Clippings Add-on’ http://clippings.mozdev.org/

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  11. Herbert Kornfeld Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    I’ve seen mention of LaunchBar and Clips in the comments already. Another way to get a clipboard history is with macro applications like Keyboard Maestro and QuicKeys.

    http://www.keyboardmaestro.com/main/
    http://www.startly.com/products/quickeys/mac/4/

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  12. I wanted to use Quicksilver for clipboard management, but its insistence on automatically placing an “http://” in front of IP addresses is beyond annoying. I’ve moved to JumpCut and I like it a lot, although I wish there was an option for not taking up valuable space in my menubar with an icon.

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  13. #12 I guess I learned to live with that after a while. That was terribly annoying. LuanchBar does not force that in the same way.

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  14. I use Corkboard since several month and it is also very cool and handy …

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  15. I use Butler for clipboard management…. amongst many other things… ;-)

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  16. I use Launchbar’s and find it to be more than suitable. I had Clips (surprised to see that you haven’t featured it) but it’s so sluggish and, in my opinion, over-feature-rich that I ditched it for Launchbar.

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  17. just ordered my first mac /macbook pro/ and doing research to find which windows apps have mac versions and etc.

    i was so hoping that yankeeclipper clipboard manager that i have used forever, loved, and become addicted to, would have a mac version. it doesn’t.

    if anyone has used it and can tell me which of the above most closely approximates its awesomeness, i would love you for it.

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  18. Looking for one that automatically changes snippet after each pasting in sequence. Tried the free stuffs from above but seemed none worked that way, or did I miss anything?

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  19. Does any one of these allow you to copy some text to a particular clip “bin” (ie, bin 1, 2, 3, etc) and then paste from one of those bins – entirely by way of keyboard shortcuts?

    CopyPaste used to do this, and I liked that. You could copy some text into (eg) “bin” 9, by pressing Command-C-9, and then later paste that back into something by pressing Command-V-9. same with other ordinal numbers for other “bins”.

    I can’t work out if any of these actually do this !

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  20. its surprising that copypaste is not mentioned above especially since peter hoerster created it back in the 90’s and it was the only clipboard program for many years. they (above) are right it is venerable since it was the first multiple clipboard program. we have been improving, updating and selling it for almost 20 years. it worked back on on os 7 remember that? the latest complete rewrite is for os 10.5 and higher only. the latest version copypaste pro is fast, unobtrusive and has lots of useful features. we still work hard to improve it. we don’t just add features but work to make it useful.

    the new url for copypaste is:
    http://www.plumamazing.com

    andrew the author says “The clipboard in a modern operating system is one of the most useful and practical tools available” and he is absolutely right. anyone who uses a mac and has no clipboard manager is wasting a lot of precious time. a clipboard manager is essential to accomplishing work efficiently and quickly.

    all the competition that has sprung up is great. we especially like it when new programs don’t copy copypaste but use their own creativity. give copypaste a try and you will see why it has a cult following and costs a little more.

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  21. Great article…!

    I’ve been using Savvy Clipboard for a while now but looking to change. It has a nasty habit of forgetting the odd clipping! Also, it looks a bit too ‘OS9′.

    Clyppan is a great find! Nice and fast, and looks modern. Just wish it had image support……

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  22. Thanks, this was helpful.

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  23. Kind of weird to miss out CopyPaste Pro which is the daddy of multiple clip utilities. It was the first one I saw over a decade ago. They do a great job of constantly updating it. Sometimes when they slow down I try other ones like those above but I always come back because its the simplest and most useful.
    http://www.plumamazing.com/mac/copypaste

    What I find most amazing is how most people don’t know how incredibly useful it is to have multiple clipboards. Using a computer without CopyPaste is painful. Thanks for the overview.

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