Advanced Cut and Paste

A very quick tip today…

Everyone uses cut, copy and paste – we’ve all become so used to the clipboard metaphor that it’s pretty automatic. Most clipboard systems have a big limitation, though – they only store one thing at a time.

If you’re like me, you’re often in the middle of moving chunks of text around in web pages, or copying URLs into email messages, and then get interrupted by an IM message asking for someone’s phone number. You copy & paste the number from your address book and then want to go back to where you were before… but you’ve overwritten the contents of your clipboard.

This is why you need a ‘clipboard history’ utility. If you use one, this will all be obvious to you, but if not, go and get one now. Tools like Quicksilver and Launchbar (my favourite) have them built-in, or you can use a simpler standalone utility like JumpCut or Clyppan – they can all basically do the same thing in this regard: they give you one more keystroke to learn as an alternative to ‘paste’, which, rather than simply pasting the last thing you copied, gives you a menu of the last few things and lets you select one. Some will paste it directly for you, others will put it in the clipboard so you can paste it yourself.

You may want to hunt around for a utility that feels right for you. I like speed and simplicity, and with Launchbar I can just pop up the list, cursor-down a couple of times and then hit return to paste in that big chunk of text I was working on before I was so rudely interrupted. It’s very slick. Launchbar costs money (but does a great deal more for you as well).

It may take a while for the clipboard history idea to become instinctive, but once it has, you won’t want to be without it. Besides, you’ve been doing cut and paste for a long time now. Isn’t it time you graduated to the next level?

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As a Windows user all I’m finding are broken websites or lack lustre reviews from 2008 for similar utilities. I often use notepad as a paste bin when collating a few copy’n’pastes together or I want to strip the rich text formatting.

Tim, here’s a review of a few Windows clipboard history utilities:

I’ve used Ditto in the past and it was great.

Now to find a good one for Ubuntu… Maybe Clipit?

Thanks, Kai! I’m trying Ditto, which seems OK so far.

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