Modernize Your Mac’s Clipboard

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #333

In my first book, Dr. Macintosh (1989), I described the Mac clipboard thusly:

The Clipboard is a special area of RAM set aside to hold text or graphics you Cut or Copy. The Clipboard can contain only one selection at a time: the last thing you Cut or Copied. When you use the Paste command, the current contents of the Clipboard will be pasted. Because the Clipboard is held in RAM, shutting down, restarting, or crashing causes the loss of its contents.


While almost everything else about the Mac has gotten better, faster, and more elegant since then, my description of the Clipboard remains accurate. The Clipboard in 2019 still only holds one item at a time, and still loses its contents when you crash, shut down, or restart your Mac.

While it’s quaint that the Mac Clipboard has remained virtually unchanged for three decades, I’ve never understood why Apple has avoided adding new functionality to the Clipboard. Today’s Macs have plenty of horsepower and can easily manage more than one item at a time.

One Clipboard is the Problem

A one-item-at-a-time Clipboard isn’t bad, but a Clipboard that remembers the last 20, 50, 100, or more items you’ve Cut or Copied is ever so much better.

I’m not sure why Apple hasn’t tackled this issue and added a Clipboard history over the course of three decades. On the other hand, for as long as I can remember there have been numerous third-party utilities that include a modern, multi-item Clipboard history. I don’t like to use a Mac without one.

Once enabled, these utilities preserve every item you Cut or Copy, and then make it easy to recall and Paste them.

There’s no shortage of such utilities today, either. Search the Mac App Store for “Clipboard” or “Clipboard history,” and you’ll discover a plethora of free and inexpensive apps that include Clipboard history.

I haven’t tried them all, but I have tried many, and have yet to find one that’s worse than the underpowered single-item Clipboard included with macOS.

Clipboard History is the Solution

So here are two Clipboard history recommendations — one is free and the other is a whopping $7.99 — to get you started.

CopyClip (Free)

Grab a copy of CopyClip by Fiplab in the Mac App Store. It’s a bare-bones Clipboard history utility, but it is a risk-free way to sample the benefits of Clipboard history.

CopyClip is a free, basic Clipboard history manager.
CopyClip is a free, basic Clipboard history manager.

CopyClip 2 ($7.99)

Then, if you like it (and you will), check out CopyClip 2 ($7.99), also by Fiplab, which adds myriad additional features including search, keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to edit individual clippings.

CopyClip2 is more powerful than its free sibling CopyClip.
CopyClip2 is more powerful than its free sibling CopyClip.

One More Thing…

Several multi-function utilities I use regularly and love offer a Clipboard history feature, including Keyboard Maestro, Alfred, and LaunchBar. They’re more expensive than CopyClip 2, but they do much more than just Clipboard history, making them well worth considering.


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