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The Best Tools for Enhancing and Expanding the Features of the Windows Clipboard

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The Windows clipboard is like a scratch pad used by the operating system and all running applications. When you copy or cut some text or a graphic, it is temporarily stored in the clipboard and then retrieved later when you paste the data.

We’ve previously showed you how to store multiple items to the clipboard (using Clipboard Manager) in Windows, how to copy a file path to the clipboard, how to create a shortcut to clear the clipboard, and how to copy a list of files to the clipboard.

There are some limitations of the Windows clipboard. Only one item can be stored at a time. Each time you copy something, the current item in the clipboard is replaced. The data on the clipboard also cannot be viewed without pasting it into an application. In addition, the data on the clipboard is cleared when you log out of your Windows session.

NOTE: The above image shows the clipboard viewer from Windows XP (clipbrd.exe), which is not available in Windows 7 or Vista. However, you can download the file from deviantART and run it to view the current entry in the clipboard in Windows 7.

Here are some additional useful tools that help enhance or expand the features of the Windows clipboard and make it more useful.

Clipboard Magic

Clipboard Magic is a free program that extends the Windows clipboard. It holds multiple entries. It can also save descriptive labels on the entries, as well as store web addresses to which you want temporary access but don’t want to bookmark. The program allows you to quickly and easily copy an item back to the clipboard, or even drag and drop text from Clipboard Magic into other software. If you copied text you want to save, you can save the entry to a text file.

If there’s text you paste into other programs often, you can manually insert entries into Clipboard Magic so you can easily paste them at a later time. You can also backup and restore entries saved in Clipboard Magic.

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ArchiveClipboard

ArchiveClipboard is a free program that sits in your system tray as it monitors the Windows clipboard activity. It allows you to archive contents that pass through the Windows clipboard. The Archive Clipboard panel shows the items that have been saved with ArchiveClipboard. You can preview each entry, as well as cut, copy, paste, and delete each entry.

The entries saved in ArchiveClipboard remain even after you log out or reboot. You can copy them again for pasting into other software as well as edit them, merge them, and even drag and drop them anywhere.

They are working on ArchiveCloud Synchronization and iPhone and Android apps, so you’ll be able to integrate clipboards from your PC and mobile devices.

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Visual Clipboard

Visual Clipboard is a simple Windows clipboard history manager. It allows you to store more than one clipboard entry and paste a selected entry into any program. Simply press Ctrl + Mouse button to view the clipboard history and choose an item to paste.  You can also use Visual Clipboard to store quick notes. It’s also portable, so you can use it on any Windows computer from a USB flash drive.

There is a free version and a paid Pro version (starting at $19.95). The features available in the Pro version, and not the free version are as follows:

    • Paste to an active application using hotkeys or a pop-up menu
    • Capture and store images
    • Ability to customize hotkeys
    • Create custom categories and sub-categories
    • Contains 90+ nice icons for custom categories

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Ditto

Ditto is a free, open source program that extends the standard Windows clipboard. It saves each item copied to the clipboard, allowing access to any of  these items at a later time. Ditto handles any type of information you can copy to the clipboard, such as text, images, HTML, and custom formats. Ditto sits in the system tray providing access to its features from the tray icon or using a global hotkey. Select entries stored in Ditto by double-clicking on them or pressing Enter, and paste them the standard way into other programs. You can also drag and drop entries from Ditto into other programs.

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Shapeshifter

Shapeshifter is a free, advanced tool for managing any format in the Windows clipboard, even images. You can still use Ctrl + C to copy and hold down Ctrl + V to manage the clipboard contents using Shapeshifter. The program also supports any language.

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ClipCube

ClipCube is a free, very small tool for managing the Windows clipboard history. It sits in the system tray and records copied text for use at a later time. You can organize and search the entries, and even edit them. ClipCube also has a Direct Paste feature that allows you to use a global hotkey, Ctrl + Shift + X, to open a small, popup window where items from the clipboard can be pasted into the active program with a click.

You can use ClipCube’s Scratchpad for taking notes that can also be quickly pasted into any app as easily as clipboard entries.

ClipCube is also portable, allowing you to take your clipboard and Scratchpad entries with you.

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ClipX

ClipX is a free clipboard manager that allows you to assign hotkeys to primary and secondary pastes from your clipboard. It supports copying, cutting, and pasting both text and images.

There are about a half-dozen plugins for ClipX that provide additional functionality, such as a clipboard search, a color picker that automatically puts the color values of the copied color into your clipboard, and one that adds sticky clipboard entries for times that you want to keep snippets of text handy.

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CLCL

CLCL is a free, simple clipboard manager that allows you to access your clipboard history by pressing Alt + C or from the icon in your system tray. You can save frequently used entries in the Templates category and the paste hotkey can be customized based on the program you’re using to prevent conflicts with shortcut keys in other programs. CLCL supports all clipboard formats and plugins are available that provide more functionality.

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ArsClip

ArsClip is a free, Windows clipboard utility that supports pictures, formatted text, Unicode, and HTML, and allows you to categorize your entries into permanent clip groups. ArsClip also supports files, allowing you to store files you frequently use or paste directly in ArsClip. Both a portable version and an installable version are provided.

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AutoClipX

AutoClipX is a free program that sits in the system tray and allows you to copy text simply by highlighting it with the mouse. Then, you can quickly paste that text by clicking a mouse button. The mouse buttons can be configured to paste and/or clear the clipboard.

The auto-copy function can be disabled for specific windows and you can disable AutoClipX using a hotkey.

AutoClipX also allows you to strip content from text, such as HTML markup, spaces, and numbers. The stripped text can be replaced with text you specify. The stripping and replacing options can be customized, allowing you to use your own.

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Clipboardic

Clipboardic is a small, free utility that keeps track of your copy and cut activity and automatically saves the data into a Windows clipboard file. When you want to paste the data into a program, simply select the appropriate clipboard file to copy back into the clipboard for pasting.

Clipboardic also allows you to share saved clipboard data among multiple computers on a local network.

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OrangeNote

OrangeNote is a free clipping manager for Windows that allows you to store an unlimited number of text clippings in a database that is fully indexed and to call them up at any time using a full-text search. Each clipping can be assigned a custom hotkey for quick pasting into any running program.

OrangeNote keeps a fully automatic history of all clipboard activity so you can keep track of everything you’ve copied. Click the icon to the left of any entry to make the active entry in the clipboard for quick pasting.

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Clipboards

Clipboards is a simple, free program that extends the functionality of the Windows clipboard. The program window looks like the classic clipboard viewer (clipbrd.exe) from Windows XP, but Clipboards allows you to copy data into multiple clipboards. Simply press Alt + 1 to Alt + 9 to select one of the nine clipboards to use for copying and pasting. You can change the hotkey from Alt to Ctrl.

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Karen’s Clipboard Viewer

Karen’s Clipboard Viewer is a very simple program that allows you to easily view what’s currently in the Windows clipboard. It supports TXT, BMP, WMF, and DIB formats. You can also use this tool to quickly erase the contents of the clipboard. It sits in the system tray.

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If you’ve found a useful tool for extending the functionality of the Windows clipboard to make it more useful, let us know.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 10/20/12

Comments (18)

  1. Kurt
  2. Rege

    I’ve used Clipboard Help+Spell by DonationCoder for years and I like it a lot. Here’s the link: http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/clipboardhelpandspell/index.html

  3. Xantes

    You’ve missed another free one: “Clipomatic”!

  4. Arston

    Thank you for the article! Shapeshifter is an excellent software!

  5. sj

    All excellent programs. But you left out Clipmate. I’ve used it forever, and it’s absolutely the best of the best.

  6. Dark Reality

    I don’t understand Windows clipboard apps. Don’t you just want a good note-taking application like Evernote or something?

    On Android, I have an app called ClipNinja. I paid a buck or two for it, but it’s really neat. It’s basically a keylogger. Due to Android system limitations, it cannot record passwords. (However, soft keyboards can, obviously, which is stupid. But I digress.) It stores everything (else) you type for 7 days, unless you star it. You can copy anything in it to the Clipboard, and sort by app. When I flash a new ROM, it’s invaluable as I can just enter my email address once, and use it to paste it in others. (Why not just use the clipboard? Well, I have multiple usernames and email addresses.)

    In Firefox, I use an extension called TextArea Cache. It also logs everything I type, but only text area boxes. Not usernames, passwords, topic titles, things like that. Just big comment boxes like the one I’m typing in now. In Chrome, I use a similar extension called Lazarus. I’m sure it’s in Firefox, too, but I prefer how TAC operates and that’s Firefox-only.

  7. Russ Williams

    I like Spartan

  8. BB

    I agree with SJ – definitely worth including Clipmate in this list. It’s expensive ($35) but it’s extremely powerful, and has been around for a very long time.

  9. StevenTorrey

    I don’t understand your assertion that only one item can be stored on clipboard; I have Windows 7 Premium and can store 24 items onto the clipboard. I translate Hebrew and Greek texts, consult Hebrew and Greek online dictionaries, and clipboard is a godsend for cut/paste with accuracy.

    Course, I don’t multi-task. If it is 9:30 am, it is time to translate Greek and I do nothing else till I am done. Then I close that session, and if I want to cut/paste something, a new fresh empty clipboard is created. But still I can load at least 24 items onto clipboard…

  10. Colin V

    For me Clipdiary from Softvoile does a great job, not too costly &
    used it for years no problems.

  11. Bob Fletcher

    M9 Free version allows 25 clips in memory but kept for retrieval.
    This has been used for many years and was a wonderful asset to producing newsletters.

  12. Bob Fletcher

    Typo – M8 in conjunction with Spartan.

  13. matteog

    You forget also ClipboardMaster :-) very powerful

  14. Uncle Nutzi

    Steven Torrey-I may he wrong but I think you are confusing Windows 7 clipboard with MS Office clipboard which saves 24 clips.

    If you create some of your or others clips over & over, M8 Free Multi Clipboard & other clipboards can save a permanent clip until you choose to delete that also.

    M8 even saves & allows use of Macros. Ex: typing without quotes “,sig” could add your signature; typing “,em3″ could add your 3rd email account address etc.

  15. Teo

    I found some gems in here. Thank you very much!

  16. kandries

    I want to add still another program : Yankee Clipper.
    I’m using it now and then.

  17. peteghost

    I’ve used clipplus for at least a dozen years.

  18. alfred freitas

    I’ve used clip magic for some time and find it to be an excellent clipboard manager. It allows me to save clipboard entries in files so they can be used again later. I save reference sources for a paper in a file and when I re-work that paper I can call up that file. When I add DVDs to my collection software I re-call the I.D.s I saved to use again. It also has some “quirks”. If I right click on an item it loads that item onto the clipboard but also reserves it at the top of the list (two entries in list, three entries in list if I right click again). If, by accident, I left click on an item (not at the top of the list) it will duplicate the entire list from the entry I want all the way to the top of the list. In every other way this little gem is great.

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