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Want to find a history of images, text, or files you’ve copied? You need to install a clipboard manager, which stores lists of all the files you’ve copied. Just any clipboard manager won’t do – you need the best. And we’ve got five of the most functional around.

Before we dive in, let’s answer a commonly asked question: Where is my clipboard? While Windows XP kept a history of items copied to a clipboard, versions of the operating system since Windows 7 only store clipboard data temporarily. Once you’ve restarted your computer that information is gone — forever.

A Warning About Clipboard Managers

Clipboard managers suffer from potential security issues. First, if someone gains access to your PC, they can also access the contents of your clipboard. Data copied to the clipboard, such as passwords and other sensitive information, can be viewed. Second, some clipboards can transmit user data over the Internet. If you install any clipboard, make certain that you download from an official website location. However, Shapeshifter (discussed further below) stores clipboard contents temporarily, meaning it purges its contents after each system reboot.

If you need to wipe the default clipboard of its contents, Mark O’Neil suggests three different tips for managing a clipboard 5 Tips to Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like a Pro 5 Tips to Manage Your Windows Clipboard Like a Pro Better known as Copy & Paste, a tool for students to lift passages from Wikipedia, the Clipboard can save you loads of typing time. We'll show you how to use it like a pro. Read More :

  • Restart your computer.
  • Copy irrelevant text.
  • Press the PrintScreen button on an unimportant website.

However, if you aren’t particular about security, there’s an interesting synergy between the Dropbox clipboard and whatever clipboard manager you’re using.

Best Clipboard Managers

1. Best Open Source Option: Ditto

Out of the open source clipboard managers out there, Ditto ranks among the best. Its feature list is vast.

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ditto example

  • Open source: For those curious, you can compile a copy of Ditto by accessing the source code.
  • Hotkey support.
  • Portable installation available.
  • Long copy history: Ditto supports a ridiculously long copy history.
  • Multi-file support: Ditto supports files, images, and text.
  • Encryption: Ditto offers encrypted, cloud-syncing for using a single clipboard across multiple computers.
  • Clipboard search: Ditto can use the wildcard * operator to search through a vast number of clipped items.
  • And a lot more.

Ditto continues its reign as a dominant clipboard manager. On the downside, it consumes around 0.80 MB of RAM. While newer hardware won’t even blink at its requirements, older computers might not handle it so well.

2. Most Feature-Packed: PhraseExpress

PhraseExpress is better known as a text completion app, although it also functions as a powerful clipboard manager. It’s most suitable for users who require text expansion What Is Text Expansion & How Can It Help You Save Time? What Is Text Expansion & How Can It Help You Save Time? If you could save yourself even a small fraction of the time you spend typing, you could save hours of your time every week. That's exactly what text expansion is for. Read More . For those unaware, if you write the same lines, over and over, a text expander can automatically generate pre-determined boilerplate text. The software can also predict when to insert text.

phraseexpress user interface example

To top it off, PhraseExpress is free, with no strings attached, for personal use. Professional users receive notifications reminding them that the software isn’t free in the workplace. We’ve written about the many, many uses for PhraseExpress 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander In my never-ending quest to find new ways to automate my activities in front of the keyboard, and to shave precious seconds off of my work schedule, I always appreciate new and creative technologies that... Read More before – it’s worth trying out if you require text-expansion and clipboard management tools.

PhraseExpress can do a lot more than just expand text and manage a clipboard. However, there’s still something of a learning curve and those looking for a simpler manager might need to look elsewhere.

3. Most Secure: Shapeshifter

Unlike the other options in this roundup, Shapeshifter doesn’t save the contents of your clipboard to a hard drive. Like Windows, Shapeshifter stores clipboard contents in memory – so you lose everything after restarting the computer. It also dispenses with any cloud storage option, although the other managers require configuring file transmission over a network.

shapeshifter clipboard example

  • Looks great: Eye-pleasing Windows Aero theme
  • Secure: Doesn’t offer cloud syncing and saves the contents of clipboard to RAM, reducing the chances of having your clipboard’s contents stolen.
  • Multiple file format support: It includes files, text, and images.

Unfortunately, Shapeshifter hasn’t been updated since 2012. In Windows 10, crashes can occur when users copy images. And when Shapeshifter goes down, it takes the contents of your clipboard with it. Even so, it’s a good option for security conscious users on Windows 8.1 or older versions of Windows.

4. Easiest Erase of Clipboard: ArsClip

ArsClip offers a tremendous number of features, including macros, cloud synchronization, and multiple filetype support. You can summon ArsClip by pressing the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + Z. The interface is very minimal and this clipboard manager is entirely free.

arsclip user interface example

  • Cloud synchronization: User can configure ArsClip to share its clipboard across Android and Windows devices.
  • Multiple filetype support: Photographs, HTML, and entire files.
  • Macro support: Macro support means users can automate pasting functions, which is useful in a lot of situations, including spreadsheets.
  • Clipboard editing: ArsClip enables editing content that’s copied to the clipboard.
  • Simple keyboard wipe: ArsClip can easily wipe its keyboard history.
  • Portable version available.
  • And a lot more!

On the downside, learning to use some of the more complex functions in ArsClip can require a significant amount of time. However, if you work with spreadsheets, it just might be worth the time investment.

5. Best Microsoft Office Integration: Spartan Multi Clipboard

Spartan Multi Clipboard offers excellent integration with Microsoft Excel. It can automatically insert entire columns into spreadsheets, a must-have feature for heavy Excel users. The video below demonstrates how Spartan Clipboard works with Excel.

While Excel includes a robust clipboard utility, the clipboard doesn’t function outside of Excel. Spartan, on the other hand, works inside and outside of Microsoft Office (like all clipboard managers).

  • Macro functionality: Spartan is particularly suited for inputting columns into spreadsheets.
  • Large clip list: Spartan can store a significant amount of files to the clipboard.
  • Multiple file support: Spartan supports copying images to the clipboard, in addition to files and text.
  • Portable installation available.

There are a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to use Spartan. Spartan Clipboard is a fair amount more complicated than some of the other clipboard managers, and it’s a paid application. Fortunately, you can use the free lite version. The Lite version suffers from limited functionality compared to the paid version. For example, users can store only 500 clips and two macros. And it cannot store images.

6. Best Google Drive Integration: 1Clipboard

1Clipboard offers fluid integration into Google Drive. To enable the integration, you’ll need to log into your Google account and grant access to Drive. But if you just want to try out the clipboard, you can skip this step. Even if you give Drive access to 1Clipboard, you can revoke those permissions by performing a security audit of the permissions you’ve given to third party applications. Ben Stegner wrote an excellent list of security issues Start the Year Off Right with a Personal Security Audit Start the Year Off Right with a Personal Security Audit It's time to make plans for the new year, such as ensuring your personal security is up to scratch. Here are 10 steps you should take to update everything using your PC, phone or tablet. Read More all Internet users should handle.

  • Google Drive integration: Clipboard data is saved to Google Drive. In the event of a computer failure, the data will remain intact.
  • Clipboard search: 1Clipboard can parse through clipboard contents using keyboard detection.
  • Clipboard starring: Users can mark important clips with a star, making retrieval simpler.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: Google Drive users can access their clipboard across both Mac and Windows PCs.
  • Great looking user interface.
  • Easy to configure: 1Clipboard is one of the simplest to configure cloud-syncing clipboards around. Alternatives include Pastebin (cloud-syncing clipboards How To Store Your Clipboard Data & Share It Online How To Store Your Clipboard Data & Share It Online The clipboard is something we use probably every few minutes, but seldom see. Like an invisible help it stays out of the way and carries whatever we cut and copy to every corner of our... Read More ).

1clipboard user interface

Unfortunately, there’s no Linux client, but an alternative would be Keepboard. While an Android version is coming soon, at present you’ll need an application like Pushbullet to sync your clipboard with an Android device How to Share Your Windows Clipboard with Your Android Device & Vice Versa How to Share Your Windows Clipboard with Your Android Device & Vice Versa Ever wished you could share a URL or a snippet of text from your phone to your PC or vice versa? Your wish shall come true. We'll show you how to sync your clipboards. Read More . And you can choose from Pushbullet alternatives The 7 Best Free Alternatives to Pushbullet The 7 Best Free Alternatives to Pushbullet Mad that Pushbullet is suddenly expensive? Don't worry, there are plenty of free alternatives. Read More .

So What’s the Best Clipboard Manager?

Everyone’s needs differ, but out of the five mentioned, Ditto is my favorite clipboard tool. Sadly, many of the most common managers, such as the lightweight ClipX, have gone without updates for years. ClipX hasn’t received an update since 2008; its last stable version released in 2005.

Does anyone have a favorite clipboard manager? Did I miss anything? Let us know!

  1. amips
    August 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    The best has now gone! SHAPESHIFTER and FLAMEFUSION are no longer.

    flamefusion.net

    Website just disappeared, and there's no .exe to be found that's not infected.

    It was always a stub installer that linked to their website for a live download.

    WHAT A SHAME!!

  2. Phar
    April 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

    ClipX best most lightweight by far.

    "ClipX hasn’t received an update since 2008; its last stable version released in 2005."

    That's actually a good thing, good simple software doesn't need updates if done properly.

  3. Anjan Oleti
    April 25, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Been a ClipMate user for a long time. It offered numerous useful features like.. support for all formats, power paste, global hotkeys for frequently used actions like selecting previous/next clip etc. Though I liked it for the above features, I was never too happy with it. Clunky interface, feature overload, discontinued development etc. put me off. I was always on the lookout for a better program. I tried almost every program mentioned in the article and more. Nothing came close until I met "CopyQ" https://hluk.github.io/CopyQ/. It is free. It looks simple with the right number of features, and can be extended with its scripting capabilities. I could happily uninstall ClipMate. No complaints. In love with it, ever since :)

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:00 am

      That is an impressive clipboard manager! Thank you for introducing it to me. I went through about twenty to make this list but CopyQ somehow slipped through my fingers.

  4. Marjorie Cunningham
    April 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    This is a great article but the best is the clipboard manager warning up front, something I never considered. Thank you for pointing out the pitfalls, not that it's a deterrent, but a head's up is always nice!

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Thanks Marjorie! This is the reason why encryption is so important. Without encryption an attacker can get access to a clipboard manager, just by getting hold of your computer.

    • JohnTurnbull
      September 18, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      But if you use Spartan, you can encrypt your paswords.

  5. Azhar Madia
    April 25, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    I used Ditto for years until I found CopyQ (https://github.com/hluk/CopyQ). It has more features than Ditto and it looks better.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for showing this one to me. It's impressive!

  6. Danny
    April 25, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I still see no use to replace ClipX. While it can be worrisome that ClipX hasn't been updated in years, I see it as more or less stable to use and feature-complete. I don't need the bells and whistles of other managers, the Stickies plugin is the only extra feature I need.

    Of the above, I've used Ditto, ArsClip and 1Clipboard. I find them different enough usage-wise that I end up returning to ClipX.

    On the Linux side, I use Parcellite.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2016 at 11:03 am

      If it ain't broke, why fix it? Very true.

      Even so, I worry about vulnerabilities going unpatched. If an app goes unupdated for many years, it's possible that a security vulnerability might go unpatched. And the clipboard can contain a great deal of our personal data.

      • MrSmartyPants
        August 27, 2016 at 8:53 pm

        That is definitely very good food for thought, Kannon. I've hung onto old, old software because it was simple, easy, and did the job.

        ACDSee Photo organizer and simple editor - version THREE comes to mind... - It's now at version NINETEEN - but I'm STILL using THREE on some Windows 7 systems!! It is just simple, easy, and does the job - because I'm not a crazy photo enthusiast - I just want my photos organized and to be able to do some simple editing. The later versions are just too mucked up with all sorts of bells & whistles I just don't care for... BUT - version 3 of ACDSee is probably a HUGE security risk at this point... It probably came out in 2006 (??),

        • Kannon Yamada
          August 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm

          Thanks for the comment! I've been looking for a good photo organizer, by the way. Thanks for sharing!

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