Updated by Tina Sieber on January 20, 2017.
Attention: The Microsoft Cache service will shut down on February 28, 2017. Check out these alternative clipboard apps.
As any productivity guru knows, Ctrl + C (Copy) and Ctrl + V (Paste) are arguably the two most important shortcuts on a keyboard. It’s difficult to express how much time they save compared to using a mouse.
But although those simple shortcuts have served people well since the beginning of the computer age, another key aspect of the copy/paste process — the clipboard itself — is in major need of an overhaul.
What’s Wrong With the Current Clipboard?
The clipboard makes it easy to move text and images around on a page, or transfer them from one app to another. You just press Copy, which temporarily stores the information on what we call the clipboard, put the cursor in the new location, and click Paste. Easy.
Except, there are issues:
- A piece of information you temporarily copy to the clipboard stays there until you replace it with a new piece of information or until you shut down your computer.
- Once replaced or removed, you can no longer retrieve the information you copied to the clipboard earlier.
- The files we want to copy have become much larger.
- The clipboard is confined to one device and user profile, meaning it doesn’t help you in copying information between different devices or users.
All this presents problems. For example, a high-definition image with a large resolution has the potential to eat through a significant amount of RAM until it’s replaced. If you don’t manually replace it quickly, it’s easy to forget it’s even there. And how many times have you either accidentally overwritten something stored on the clipboard or pasted the wrong thing into a document?
An invisible, unmanageable clipboard is no longer fit for purpose. An upgrade is needed.
3 Best Clipboard Alternatives
We’ve covered Windows clipboard tips elsewhere on the site. Here’s a quick summary of my three favorite apps:
If you’re looking for something that focuses on Microsoft Office integration above everything else, Spartan Multi Clipboard is the clear winner.
It has a large clip list, can work with macros in Excel, and supports images, files, and text.
CopyQ is great for project management. It saves your content in customized tabs, clips can be dragged-and-dropped into apps, and it supports tagging to keep all your clips organized.
You might not realize it, but clipboard managers can suffer from security issues. Someone who hacks your PC might be able to find sensitive information — such as passwords and important documents — saved on the clipboard.
If security is your main concern, go for Shapeshifter. It stores clips in your computer’s memory rather than on the hard-drive. When you restart the computer, it automatically deletes everything.
What Was Microsoft Cache?
Microsoft Cache is best described as a universal clipboard for everything. It has one simple goal: to make it easy to transfer content between apps and devices.
Keen followers of Microsoft news will recall rumors of an app called Microsoft OneClip in May 2015. It was developed by Microsoft Garage — the company’s outlet for experimental projects — and was designed to be a virtual clipboard that could store, organize, and share “clips” in the cloud.
OneClip never made it to public release, but it appears that Cache could be OneClip v2.0 — and this time, it will be offered to the public.
Note — In some tutorial videos, Microsoft is referring to Cache as “Bundle”. It seems the final name has not been fully agreed upon.
How to Get the App
At the time of writing, Microsoft has not officially released Cache to the public, although you can sign up to receive it.
However, a preview of the app has been leaked and is available for download from windowsblogitalia.com. If you don’t speak Italian, Windows expert Paul Thurrott provided a direct download link in a recent tweet.
— Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) October 19, 2016
If you don’t want to download a dodgy leaked preview, you can wait for the real deal. It’s expected the app will form part of Windows 10 Redstone 2, AKA the Creators Update, the next major Windows update that’s scheduled for early 2017.
What Are Cache’s Best Features?
At this stage, the full feature list is impossible to clarify. But, based on the leaked preview, we still have a good idea of what you can expect.
Here are some of the most exciting features:
- Bookmark Whole Documents — You’ll be able to copy entire documents into the app and access them on other devices. Think of it as a more transient version of OneDrive.
- Organize Saved Content — To organize what you save to Cache, you can create groups.
- Never Lose Anything — The app will automatically save everything you copy. No more accidental overwrites or RAM-eating images.
- Access Your Information Anywhere — Cache automatically syncs across your devices (currently Windows and iPhone only).
- Drag-and-Drop — Mouse lovers won’t have to use shortcuts. You can just drag-and-drop text snippets, images, web pages, files, URLs, and sticky notes directly into the app.
- Dock Mode — You can permanently attach Cache to the side of your screen while you’re working, allowing you to easily access your content.
- Reading Lists — Reading lists are one of the best features in the Edge browser. Cache will let you curate these lists and share them with friends and family.
- Projects — “Collections” are the centerpiece of the app. They are glorified folders, but are a great way to effectively manage content for multiple projects at once.
- Shopping Lists — The consumer focus continues with a way to manage shopping lists. Apparently, there aren’t enough apps that perform this function already!
- Availability — It appears that Cache will be cross-platform, but at the moment we can only confirm the app’s existence on Windows and iOS. It would be safe to assume an Android version will also be available on release day.
Are You Excited for Cache?
It’s still early days, but has the preview version of Cache done enough to get you excited for its release?
Or do you think it’s too complex, will you keep using some of the third-party alternatives instead? Maybe your seriously old-school and are more than happy with the traditional copy/paste feature?!
As always, you can get in touch with your thoughts, opinions, and feedback in the comments box below.
Image Credits: FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock