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The clipboard on your Mac isn’t a particularly impressive feature. You can copy something, and then paste it. That’s pretty much it — it’s just a small, temporary storage area.
If you spend a lot of time copying and pasting, the standard clipboard on your Mac probably hinders you more than it helps. If this is the case, you need to download one of these top clipboard management apps.
Why You Need a Clipboard Manager
The problem with the standard Mac clipboard is that you can only copy and paste one element at a time. Each time you copy some text, a picture, URL, etc. it overwrites the last thing you copied. Each time you restart your Mac, your clipboard is emptied.
But what if you need more than this? What if you want to keep a history of everything you copy onto your clipboard so you can access them whenever you want?
In its simplest form, this is what a clipboard manager is for. The reasons for using a clipboard manager are numerous. With that in mind, we’ve searched the web to recommend the best clipboard managers for Mac. Below is what we found.
If you’re looking specifically for apps that sync your Mac clipboard with your iOS clipboard, however, please read our review of the Command-C and Scribe apps. If you use Windows, there are plenty of good clipboard managers for your platform too.
Flycut is an open source clipboard manager (see on GitHub) designed specifically for developers. Non-developers can use it too, but the app isn’t designed for copying images or tables. So, when it comes to managing anything other than snippets of code, basic text, or URLs, you’ll want to choose another app.
Once opened, you’ll see Flycut’s icon displayed in the Menu Bar. As you start to copy and paste snippets, you can access these by clicking on that icon, then right clicking the snippet you want to work with. It’s more streamlined, however, to press shift+cmd+v, and use the left/right arrows to navigate your clipboard library. As a developer, once you get used to this your workflow will wonder how you lived without it.
From the preferences window you can also change that hotkey, and sync your clipboard library with Dropbox.
If you’re looking for a simple, lightweight clipboard manager, Copyclip is a decent option, despite being very similar to Flycut.
Like Flycut, the app can only copy plain text (including data from tables), so no formatting such as hyperlinks will be maintained. Unlike Flycut, however, there is no hotkey to access your library in a floating window. Instead, you must click the icon in the Menu Bar, and select the snippet you want to copy from your drop-down library.
Within the app’s preferences you can set a limit on the number of snippets Copyclip will save (to help save on disk space). There’s also an option to exclude certain apps. If you copy sensitive information from some apps like password managers, this feature could be particularly useful.
Copy’Em Paste ($9.99)
Personally, Copy’Em Paste is my favorite Mac clipboard manager. It offers pretty much all of the features mentioned elsewhere in this article, while somehow being extremely unobtrusive.
You access your Copy’Em Paste clipboard library via the Menu Bar. This library can keep track of pretty much everything you copy — plain text, rich text, images, code snippets, and even files.
You can sort these as you wish, and either drag and drop them to where you need the items, or copy the item by clicking on it. If you copy a lot of items, these can be sorted into lists, which you can then search for easy access.
My favorite features, however, are the ability to take and save screenshots directly into the clipboard manager, and to quickly pause Copy’Em Paste, for those times you just want to use your Mac’s built-in clipboard.
Paste really is an impressive clipboard manager, and has the nicest user interface, by far. Once you’ve chosen how many snippets you want the app to store (from 50, all the way up to unlimited), you can start accessing and organizing everything you’ve copied by pressing shift+cmd+v (not just text, but also images and tables).
Paste also offers Pinboards, which are effectively folders that you can organize your snippets into, such as code snippets, and URLs. As your number of snippets grows, you’ll start to rely on the search feature to find what you’re looking for. Once found, just double click the snippet. You’re ready to paste it wherever you like.
More than just a clipboard manager, Unclutter is designed to help keep your desktop clean and organized. Once installed, move your cursor to the top of the screen then scroll down with your mouse’s scroll button (or two fingers on the trackpad). Unclutter’s window will appear.
This window is split into three panes. The central pane is where you can drag files that you need frequent access to. Click the settings icon to display these in a variety of ways. You can also search for files within that pane. The right-hand pane is where you can create, store, and search for notes that you want to make on the fly.
The left pane is your clipboard library. Every time you copy something on your Mac, it will be stored here. Although most formatting will be lost (as with most of the other options), any hyperlinks within copied text will be retained. You can also favorite, edit, and transform text into upper case and lower case. To copy items back to your clipboard, you have to click on the item within the pane, right click, then click copy.
Within the app’s preferences you can change the size of your clipboard library (up to 50 items), as well as change the location where your notes and clipboard will be saved.
A New Level of Productivity
The limitations of the default Mac clipboard leave many users feeling frustrated. Not having a simple way of saving what we copy is a basic feature that shouldn’t be overlooked any more.
Downloading any of the clipboard managers mentioned in this article will certainly help you increase your productivity while using a Mac.. Combined with supercharging Spotlight and a host of other amazing Mac apps, your Mac will help boost your workflow like never before.
Which clipboard manager do you use?