Hold That Thought: 5 Reasons You Need A Clipboard Manager

Justin Pot 19-08-2014

When you think about it, copy paste is kind of weird. You copy stuff, but there’s no way to see it. And if you copy over what you had, it’s gone – forever.


Clipboard managers address this by giving you a place to see all the things you’ve copied, and to restore an older item for pasting. But a clipboard manager isn’t just a way to avoid losing things: it can also become a key part of your workflow.

We’ve shown you incredibly useful clipboard management utilities 10 Incredibly Useful Clipboard Management Utilities [Windows] Copy and paste is one of the best features we have at our fingertips, especially when combined with keyboard shortcuts. You can’t argue that copying and pasting is one of the most common things we... Read More and what we think are the best clipboard managers for Windows The 3 Best Clipboard Managers For Windows The Windows clipboard can only hold one single item, so whenever you copy something else, the previous item will be discarded. If you didn't mean to lose what you had copied earlier that can be... Read More ; here are some uses for these programs you possibly haven’t thought of.

I myself like Shapeshifter Clipboard Manager [No Longer Available], and used it for a few screenshots below – these tips should work for any clipboard manager.

1. See What You’ve Clipped

When you copy something, it’s hard to tell: nothing visually happens. Your information just sort of heads to the clipboard, and the only way you can find out what’s there is by pasting it.


A clipboard manager gives you a quick way to see what you’ve copied. Simple, but very useful if you want to quickly review.

2. Recover From Distractions

It happens to all of us: you copy something only to become distracted. You copy something else later, only to realize you’ve now lost something you needed.

This is the most obvious use of a clipboard manager: never losing anything in this way again.

Maybe you don’t think you need this. Maybe your physical desk is pristine – all that’s on it is your laptop with only a single window open. You focus on one thing at a time, believing clutter can kill.


That’s great for you, but most of us aren’t like that. We’ve got a desk full of stuff we need to do, and we hop from project to project throughout the day – jumping from window to window as we do it. An IM or email will change the course of our hour, forcing us to drop what we’re doing. The clipboard being fundamental to most computer workflows, it’s inevitable that we accidentally copy over a text snippet or image that we need from time to time.

Clipboard managers keep an ongoing record of things you’ve copied, allowing you to scroll through your history and find back your missing object. Phew.

3. Use As A Highlighter

If you’re researching something online, you might wish you had a virtual highlighter. This real-world technology lets you point out the important bits of whatever you’re reading, in a way that doesn’t distract you from reading.


There are highlighters for the web Use This Web & Mobile Highlighter to Remember What You Read An online highlighter is one of the simpler tools you can use to focus on specific chunks of text. Read More out there, but you don’t necessarily need a dedicated tool. Simply highlight and copy any important bits of information as you’re reading an article – your clipboard manager will store them all for you. When you’re done reading, you can look through everything you copied and paste what’s still useful into a document. Simple.

4. Review Your Day


Software like RescueTime lets you accurately keep track of your day Accurately Keep Track of What You Do on the Computer and for How Long With RescueTime If you spend a considerable amount of time working at your computer with no Corporate Big Brother to monitor what you're doing, you may find yourself spending a bit more time than you should be... Read More , but there’s a pretty good record of what you’ve been up to on your computer already: your clipboard. Scrolling through the things you’ve copied today is a great way to remember what you’ve been working on.

This could remind you to get back to work on a particular project, or just give you a way to fill in gaps in your records. Try it out.

5. Collect, Then Compile

When you’re in deep research mode, you’re jumping all over the web. If you find yourself with 4,382 tabs open, your computer’s probably not running all that well.


Instead of opening all those tabs, consider collecting the URLs and tidbits that might come in handy by copying them. When you’re done, head back to your clipboard manager to compile them. After researching you should have a pretty good idea of what’s still useful, so scroll through what you’ve copied and find back what you actually need.

By the way, if you were thinking of using a Clipboard Manager to store phrases you find yourself typing all the time, you should rather look into Text Expansion 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 . A text expander can save you a lot of time 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  by automatically inserting text snippets whenever you type your trigger.

What Do You Use Your Clipboard Manager For?

These are just a few uses, of course – I’m sure you can think of more. Let’s talk about what you use your clipboard manager for, and which program you prefer, in the comments below. I’m looking forward to it.

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  1. Tom P.
    August 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Is there an easy way / application which will allow you to add some sort of comment to your clip?
    I like to copy URL's, but a comment indicating the context would me most helpful.

    • michael jeacock
      November 2, 2014 at 6:07 am

      well i usually use ditto for basic copy and pasting but for more versatile stuff like adding notes or moving stuff between my PC and my phone i use pushbullet.

    • Justin Pot
      November 2, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I can't think of a way to copy something to the clipboard this way, no. I think you're probably going to be well served by something like Evernote, which lets you collect URLs along with your own thoughts.

    • James
      January 19, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      >>Tom P<< You could try Spartan from I use it daily and it's very convenient. I haven't used any other clipboard managers, so I can't say whether it's better or worse. The free version shows a column of your last 25 clips and you can drag up to 25 clips into another column where they will remain until you delete them. You can rename each clip whatever you like up to about 46 characters. That's where I think it would meet your needs. You can also edit the contents of the clip. The paid version also shows your last 25 clips, but instead of being limited to 25 saved clips, you can save thousands. It's a very simple tool to use, but I haven't scratched the surface of features and options that are available. I've used the free version for about a year. Today I decided to upgrade to the full paid version. Hope this helps you in some way. James

    • Ros
      March 21, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      You can add comments to your clips in Spartan

  2. Maryon Jeane
    August 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I'd forgotten about using a clipboard manager - in fact I haven't used one since the mid '80s! A really excellent productivity tool - saves hours of "Oh damn, I've overwritten it - where the heck did I get it from, I've closed the confounded page..." etc. Thank you, Justin!

    • Justin P
      August 22, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Glad I could be helpful? I'm curious, what clipboard manager did you use in the mid-80's?

    • Maryon Jeane
      August 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Gosh - now you're asking! I think it was called something like 'Stick Pin' or 'Spike' (although I think 'Spike' was a facility within a wordprocessing program (WordPerfect?) which worked in the same way, although in an even more basic form and only within that program). It only held five items, but even so it was very useful indeed and often one doesn't actually need more than five at one time (given that it didn't hold graphics).

    • Justin P
      August 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Well, I'd hope we've come a long way in 30 years! Try out some modern managers and let us know how they stack up. :)

  3. Mike
    August 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

    I use Evernote's web clipper in Chrome which allows me to save highlighted items, whole pages, etc right to Evernote which is where all my other stuff lives anyway. Then I can sort through it whenever I get around to it, throw away what I don't need, file the rest in the appropriate notebook. No need to have all sorts of different programs to keep track of. It works for me anyway.

    • Justin P
      August 22, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Evernote is great for stuff like this too, for sure.

  4. Dalton B
    August 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I must a agree

  5. Chris
    August 19, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    The "Shapeshifter" website says "all Flamefusion software updates automatically and silently" and "we update Shapeshifter daily" which I think is a bit creepy and sounds strange when the latest downloadable version is 2 years old. Also, it promised in January "open source codes are coming up within the next month", but no more news since then. That really does not inspire confidence. Remember that you often cut & paste sensitive data like passwords. Generally, I think "MakeUseOf" should not only recommend programs and apps based on functionality and fun factors, but also with an eye on security.

    • Jerry
      August 20, 2014 at 11:49 am

      I agree completely.
      It's a PITA, but to run a microcomputer safely & effectively, you have to be a PC tech. You need granular firewall control (Comodo or TCPBlock), and you need to use a VPN for outside network connection (internet). I do not know of an actual human-friendly OS. Yet.