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How to Use a Clipboard Manager on a Mac or Windows 10

Jonathan Wylie is a digital learning consultant who has a passion for helping others get the best out of their technology.


What is a Clipboard Manager?

A clipboard manager is a very handy utility to know about. It solves a problem that you probably didn’t know you had, but it also has the potential to fundamentally change the way you use your computer. Sounds important, right? Well, if you like to copy and paste text, it very well could be. By default, when you right-click and select the Copy command on your computer, it only remembers the last thing that you copied. If you copy something else, it overwrites your previous clipping. This is the problem that a clipboard manager solves. It remembers everything you copy and stores it all on a clipboard for when you need it.

For instance, if you wanted to copy the title and the URL for an online article, a clipboard manager is exactly what you need. You can click on the URL and copy it. You can select the title and the copy that. If you want to copy the author and date of the article, you can do that too. When you are ready to paste your selections into another document, simply open your clipboard manager and choose the copied text that you want to paste.

Using a Clipboard Manager on a Mac

Apple has yet to include a built-in clipboard manager for the Mac, however, there are plenty of third-party options for those who want them. The one I use on my Mac is called CopyClip. It's a free app and you can find it on the Mac App Store.

One of the best things about CopyClip is that it is lightweight and works seamlessly in the background until you need it. Once installed, you will find the paperclip icon for CopyClip in your menu bar. Clicking on the paperclip will reveal all your recent history. You can click on one of the items to copy it, or use the keyboard shortcut to the right of the text to paste it into your document.

In the Preferences, you can choose how many clippings CopyClip will remember, as well as how many you want it to display at one time. If needed, you can also blacklist some apps so that CopyClip does not remember any clippings that you make while you are working in that app.

If CopyClip is too simple for you, take a look at the Pelican Clipboard Manager or the Paste Clipboard Tool. Both are free and can also be found in the Mac App Store.

A screenshot of the CopyClip app in action

A screenshot of the CopyClip app in action

Using a Clipboard Manager on Windows 10

Microsoft has included a free clipboard manager with Windows 10, but it is not very obvious and it is not enabled by default. You can activate it in the Settings app, but the quickest way is just to press the Windows key + V. This will open a dialog box prompting you to turn on Clipboard History.

Once enabled, anything you copy can be found in this menu. Instead of using Ctrl + V to paste your clipping, use Windows key + V instead. From here, you can choose what you want to paste simply by clicking on it. If there is something that you paste frequently, you can click the three dots on your clipping to pin it to your clipboard history.

If you are looking for some additional functionality, try CopyQ. It's free but comes with some power-user settings like password protection or the ability to search through all your clippings.

The Windows 10 Clipboard Manager

The Windows 10 Clipboard Manager

Copy and Paste Across Devices: Mac

Apple users have some additional flexibility when it comes to sharing their clipboard history across devices. If you are signed in to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac with the same iCloud account, you can copy something on one device and paste it on the other. Apple calls this the Universal Clipboard. It is part of their Continuity suite of inter-device communication tools. You can copy images, video, or text from an app on your iPhone or iPad and paste it into an app on your Mac, and vice versa. Apple's Universal Clipboard is enabled by default. There is nothing to turn on or off. If you haven't tried it before, you should! It's a very useful feature if you spend all your time on Apple devices.

Apple Continuity Features

Copy and Paste Across Devices: Windows 10

If you prefer to use a device that runs Windows 10, then you can do a very similar thing. However, you need to enable it in the Settings app. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Click the System icon and then choose Clipboard from the sidebar
  3. Then, turn on the switch next to, "Sync across devices"

From this point onwards, you should be able to copy text on one Windows 10 computer and paste it into another, so long as you are signed in with the same Microsoft account. Your clipboard history will sync between all Windows 10 devices where you are signed in.

If you want to copy and paste text between Windows 10 and an Android phone, install the Your Phone Companion app from the Google Play Store and sign in with your Microsoft account. This app is built-in to recent Samsung Galaxy phones, but if you don't have one of those, the Google Play Store app will be your best bet. You can see the setup in the video below, but once you use the app to make a connection between your phone and your PC, you will be able to copy text from one device to the other.

How to Use Your Phone Companion with Windows 10

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jonathan Wylie