Power Up Mac Productivity Using Named Clipboards in Keyboard Maestro

Bakari Chavanu 13-07-2014

No clipboard manager can do what versatile named clipboards can in Mac automation program Keyboard Maestro. Automate Everything On Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] I've written several articles about Mac automation, including a MUO Automation Guide on how to get started with Apple's Automator and the built-in OS X features for creating smart folders, playlists, albums, and mailboxes. But... Read More


Even if you’re not an experienced user of Keyboard Maestro ($36), you can download the trial version of the program and find out how named clipboards can increase your productivity on the Mac. And Keyboard Maestro requires no technical skills: if you can create playlists in iTunes, you can create automation macros in Keyboard Maestro.

Named clipboards retain copied text or images so that be retrieved when you need them, using a hotkey, a short string of characters, or one or more other activation triggers. Once you get the hang of using them, your workflow can improve massively.

Setting Up Named Clipboards

It helps to be familiar with Keyboard Maestro, but this tutorial was designed so that anyone could follow along and see how to set up macros using named clipboards. This article should familiarize you with how to set up other types of macros, too.

For this tutorial, we will create a named clipboard that holds one or more selected words copied to it. We will also create another action that pastes the contents of the named clipboard using a hotkey. This macro is a bit like using text expansion application TextExpander 22 Essential iPhone Keyboard Tips and Tricks Here's a bundle of iPhone keyboard tips and tricks, including how to type faster and customize your keyboard. Read More .

Step 1

Open the Keyboard Maestro editor, and create a new macro, File > New Macro. Next, open the Actions section and click on the Clipboard categories.



Click and drag the “Copy to Named Clipboard” action to the editor as shown above.


Step 2

All macros in KM are executed by a trigger, like a hotkey, an application, a timed trigger and so on. For the purpose of this tutorial, click on the green plus “+” button under “Trigger by any of the following:” and select Hot Key Trigger. Control+Option+C is a suitable hot key if it’s not already being used, but you can use whatever hot key you will remember.


Named clipboard trigger

As it stands now, if you use the hot key to copy a selected one or more words, the selected content will be copied to the default system clipboard, but you know there’s already a hot key for that, and anything copied to the system clipboard gets automatically overwritten when you select and copy new text. With a named clipboard, the copied selection remains there until you copy another selection to it.

Step 3

Now let’s create a named clipboard. Click on the drop-down item titled “Default Clipboard” in the macro action, and then select New… at the bottom. This will open KM’s preferences where all your named clipboards get stored. What appears in the text box will probably be whatever is on your current system clipboard, which you can ignore.

Change the title of the clipboard to “Temporary,” and delete the text that is in the box below the title. Leave the preferences window open.


Named clipboard temporary

Now select and copy one or more words in any application, but be sure to use the assigned hot key to make the copy. The text you just copied using the hot key should appear in the Temporary clipboard in the preferences window.


Give this marco a title, such as “Temporary Clipboard.”



Step 4

Create a new macro, and open the Action menu, which can also be done by clicking on the green button in the new macro window. Click on the Clipboard category, and this time drag and drop the Paste from Named Clipboard action.

Create a hot key trigger, such as Control+Option+V. Now click on “Default Clipboard” in the action and select the “Temporary Clipboard” clipboard you just created. Give this macro a title, such as “Paste Temporary.”

Named clipboard paste clipboard

Now, whenever you use the assigned hot key (Control+Option+V), it will paste the contents of the Temporary Clipboard. When you copy a new word(s) to the Temporary Clipboard using Control+Option+C it will overwrite the previous content. You don’t need to have the Keyboard Maestro app running in order for this work, but the KM Engine must be running, which can be launched (set under preferences) every time you log into your Mac.

You can also create named clipboards directly in the preferences to hold permanent text that can be pasted on-demand using an assigned hot key or other trigger.

Advanced Tips

I personally don’t use hotkeys to trigger the copy and pasting of temporary named clipboards. I use a string trigger (a set of arbitrary characters) that triggers the macro shown in the screenshot below. It selects the word behind the cursor, copies the selection to the Temporary clipboard, and then deselects the word, so I can keep on typing.

Stringer trigger

If I need to quickly select and add more than one word, such as “named clipboard” I use a hot key trigger that selects and copies each previous word, each time the hot key trigger is used. Those selected words are added to the temporary named clipboard.

Copy single word

I use similar macro and string triggers to quickly paste the contents of the Temporary clipboard. This way I can paste the temporary word(s), without having to lift my hands off the keys to select the hotkey.

Paste string trigger


Named Clipboards are just one of over a hundred actions and features in Keyboard Maestro. If you want to increase productivity while using your Mac, learning to use this program is essential. If you catch the automation bug, I also recommend the file and application launcher, Alfred Alfred Or Keyboard Maestro: Which Works Best For You? Keyboard Maestro and Alfred have saved me hours of time, and reduce hundreds of clicks and keyboard shortcuts on a daily basis to get things done. Read More , the folder action program, Hazel Hazel - Performing Tasks On Your Mac So You Don't Have To I have previously written an entire MUO guide about using Apple's smart folders and Automator program, but a classic third-party application called Hazel is one of my personal automation assistants that works in the background,... Read More , and the finger gesture application, BetterTouchTool Power Up Your Mac With Advanced BetterTouchTool Automations I started using BetterTouchTool back in 2011, and since then it has become one of the top three Mac applications for boosting my productivity and streamlining my workflow. Though BTT can be used by any... Read More .

Let us know how this tutorial works for you, and what questions you have about using Keyboard Maestro.

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