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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:
- 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.
- 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. 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.
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 before – it’s worth trying out if you require text-expansion and clipboard management tools.
- Encryption: PhraseExpress supports encrypted cloud syncing across multiple machines.
- Portable version available
- Highly customizable: Users can configure PhraseExpress so that it only copies to the clipboard within certain applications.
- Text-expansion: Also functions as a text-expander and spellcheck program.
- Template generation: PhraseExpress supports template generation. If you’ve ever needed to generate lots of boiler-plate Word document templates (download Word templates), PhraseExpress is for you.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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).
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. And you can choose from Pushbullet alternatives.
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!