6 Clipboard Managers for your Mac

by Milind Alvares

6 Clipboard Managers for your Mac

by Milind Alvares on June 24, 2009

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clip-managersDepending on how you use your Mac, having a clipboard history can play a big role in keeping your workflow efficient. It allows you to work on multiple projects without having to constantly switch between apps, it allows you to save any text you’re typing without creating a new file, and enables you to rummage through your past, finding that important piece of info you had copied from a web page.

So what am I looking for in a clipboard manager? Above all, I want the clipboard manager to be transparent, so much so that it doesn’t interfere with the usual copy-paste workflow. In fact, I won’t even mention it unless the app does so otherwise. User interface is also very important, since clipboards are not the easiest thing to display on screen. And third, is speed. Extra features like text expanding are of course most welcome.


ClipMenu installs as a simple menubar item, saving clipboard items as you progress. The drop down menubar item will give you access to 20 items, which you can set to whatever you want to in the preferences. However, it’s designed not to handle more than 50 clips.

You can also store snippets, which you can paste into documents from the menu item. No, it’s not a TextExpander like function. The clips of course are saved as rich text, so you can store HTML, images, as well as any files from Finder. While pasting, you can choose to paste it as plain text, cAse options, or even remove that clip from the history. For what it’s worth, it’s a good, but doesn’t present you with anything special. On the upside, it’s free!


A more obvious app, iClipboard installs itself as a preference pane, and features a slick HUD that floats around the edge of your screen. The presentation of clips is far superior to ClipMenu. Text and Images show up into box previews, and when you hover over them it shows you a full preview of the clip. Even if you hover over something like a Pages file it will show you a preview of the file. If you want to drag in some file from Finder, simply hover over the iClipboard tab and you can add things to the board.


In the preferences, you can set the clipboard limit according to a specific number or even specific time like a day or week. iClipboard can exclude applications from storing clips, add hot keys for bringing up the HUD. From the HUD itself, you can create projects to aggregate clips according to tasks. Overall I’d say this is a really good clipboard manager, with a slick and functional user interface. A $29 expense.


Featuring radically different user interface concepts, Clips is all about being slick. The first way to access your clips, is bringing up ‘the board’. Grabbing some user interface tips from the Dashboard, the board overlays your clips on the screen. You can arrange them in a grid, scattered, or in a swirly circle. The sidebar allows you to filter those clips by application, Space, or live searching them just by typing (this is a really cool feature). Unfortunately, the whole thing feels very messy and unusuable.


Next, is the Panel, which is a floating HUD, displaying your clips as thumbnails. This is much like the iClipboard HUD, except there’s no pop up full preview to take up the screen, so you have to make do with the small thumbnails. Third, is the organiser, which is a Finder like window where you can go through and organise all your clips, past and present. One feature I like is the shortcuts to paste recent clips 1 through 5. This will greatly speed up a text based workflow. Clips also has other features like bonjour sharing (for collaboration) and exceptions.

Clips is worth looking at if you’re comfortable with the main dashboard like interface. Costs €20 (~$28), so it’s on par with the rest of them.


Another one on the run for a slick user interface, iClip installs as a sidebar HUD that’s completely hidden until you move to the right edge. The clips are stored in ‘bins’ which are beautifully drawn holes. You can hover over a bin to show a pop up preview of the clip. It doesn’t show the preview of any file you may have copied though. The bin is designed to have a limited number of clips. You can switch to other shelves, but those are more for permanent files or snippets you might want at any given moment.


Overall this is an excellent clip board manager, with a good user interface. The clips are not as permanent as the other managers, but for most part 8-10 recent clips is good enough. One buggy aspect is that unlike iClipboard where you can choose between auto hide/show and click to show, iClip only has the auto option. This makes it pop up unnecessarily especially if you’re a scrollbar user. Costs $29 for a license.


A rather simple clipboard manager, CuteClips is a simple floating HUD with a list of clips on one side, and a preview on the other. You can increase the HUD size to include more clips, delete any clips, add shortcuts to them (not global shortcuts though). And lastly, CuteClips can install a special driver that will allow you to squeeze the sides of the mighty mouse to invoke the HUD, which you would otherwise bring up with a shortcut. I did find the manager a little sluggish at times, which is one of the reasons I’ve a little vary of this app. I tried it on a 2Ghz iMac as well as a Core 2 Duo MacBook. At $15 however, it’s the cheaper one of the lot.



Very simple manager, but I’m sure many will like Jumpcut. Whenever you want to paste something from your clipboard history, simply hit the special shortcut (Ctrl+Opt+V) which will bring up the paste browser. If you release it immediately it will paste the last copied clip. However, if you navigate with the keyboard you can go through the last several clips, including a decent preview. It’s designed to remember the last 10-15 clips, which is more than sufficient for most purposes. It’s also a free and open source app.


Final Thoughts

After going through all these clipboard managers at length I’d say iClipboard is the one I liked the most. It’s got a great user interface, especially with the live previews. I also found the projects feature useful at times. To be able to just drag and drop ‘stuff’ into the window is also very handy. At $30 it’s also the most expensive one of the lot.

A close second would be iClip, which has a smoking hot interface for clipboard management. If you’re not looking at a whole bunch of clips in your workflow, this one might just work. The saved clips is also a handy feature which will allow you to keep regularly accessed clipboard material at hand.

If you haven’t used a clipboard manager before, do try one of these out. You wouldn’t believe how useful they are. Best of all, none of them get in the way of your usual workflow. There were a few others out there, but I left them out either because they had bad user interfaces, or they interfered with the usual way of working with the clipboard.

Your take.

[Img via Flickr]

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