Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #186

If you use a Mac you’ve surely used the clipboard many times. But do you understand what the clipboard is and how it works? More importantly, do you know the simple tricks — like keyboard shortcuts utilities that offer multiple clipboards — that make it work smarter?

Mac on a clipboard

Get your Mac clipboard mojo on

One Clipboard or Many?

The clipboard has been an integral part of OS X/macOS since time immemorial. It’s temporary storage for whatever you cut or copy using the Cut or Copy commands in the Edit menu or shortcut (right-click) menu, or their keyboard shortcuts: Command + X and Command + C, respectively.

Here’s your first tip: If you haven’t memorized those keyboard shortcuts (and Command + V for Paste), you should.

The item you cut or copy remains on the clipboard until:

  • You cut or copy another item.
  • You shut down or restart your Mac.
  • Your mac crashes.

The clipboard is a beautiful thing, but it’s had one fatal flaw since the beginning: It only remembers the last item you cut or copy. That means that when you cut or copy a second item, the first item is blown away forever, replaced by the new item you cut or copied.

That bugged me way back in 1985, when I got my very first Mac, and it has bugged me ever since. A clipboard that remembers one item is good… but wouldn’t a clipboard that remembers the last 100 or 200 items you cut or copied be better?

I think so, which is the reason I’ve used many third-party utilities that offer multiple clipboards over the years. You’ll find dozens of apps that include multiple clipboard features today and I’ve tried many — LaunchBar, Alfred, and CopyClip most recently.

Bottom line: I’ll never use a Mac without multiple clipboards again, at least not on purpose. You can have my multi-clipboards when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

Multiple Clipboard Apps I Recommend

By the way, I told you all about Keyboard Maestro last week, but only mentioned its Clipboard History feature briefly. Let me just say it’s awesome — it stores the last 200 items you copy or cut and makes them available to  paste anywhere using the easy-to-remember hotkey I assigned it (Control + H).

Keyboard Maestro's Clipboard History window lets me pick from the last 200 items I copied or pasted.

Keyboard Maestro’s Clipboard History window lets me pick from the last 200 items I copied or pasted.

Or, I can paste one of the last 30 items I’ve cut or copied directly from Keyboard Maestro’s handy menu bar item.

Keyboard Maestro's Paste menu lets me pick from the last 30 items I copied or pasted.

Keyboard Maestro’s Paste menu lets me pick from the last 30 items I copied or pasted.

Having multiple clipboards is a life-changer. Long ago, I used to delete text when I edited a document, and often regretted it later. These days I never delete anything. Instead, I cut things, which places them in my Clipboard History where I can retrieve them if necessary (at least until I’ve cut or copied 199 more items and they disappear).

If you want to check out multiple clipboards for yourself, try either the Keyboard Maestro free trial or CopyClip, a decent little multi-clipboard app available in the Mac App Store for free.

CopyClip stores up to the last 200 items I copied or pasted.

CopyClip stores up to the last 200 items I copied or pasted.

Warning: Once you’ve tried multiple clipboards, you’ll never want to be without ‘em again. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!

And that’s all he wrote…


Keyboard Maestro. $36.00. Stairways Software Pty Ltd.

CopyClip (free)


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

currently using Copied: http://appshopper.com/mac/utilities/copied
he has both Mac AND iOS versions w/sync via iCloud. ‘Lists’ are a nice feature as well.
currently pricey at $8 but it goes on sale frequently…

Paste: http://appsliced.co/app?n=paste-clipboard-history-manager&l=list
also good with a ‘thumbnail’ palette look rather than menu driven. has ‘Lists’ feature to keep frequent pastes handy as well. $10 but it goes on sale frequently…

and yes, I linked to two different price tracking sites, review?


I have used Jumpcut for years.

Scott B in DC

I’m still trying to figure out why I need multiple clipboards or clipboard history. I don’t think I ever had a need. I have used TextExpander to deal with multiple text items.