Multiple Clipboards done right
At a Glance
As someone who works with text for a living, I’ve always wanted to fit a “multiple-Clipboard” utility—one that stores recent contents of the Clipboard—into my workflow. After all, I can’t remember how many times I’ve copied (or, even worse, cut) something, meaning to paste it elsewhere, then absentmindedly copied something else, losing the original content. With a multiple-Clipboard utility, both contents would be safe and available for pasting.
So in theory, multiple-Clipboard utilities are great. Unfortunately, until recently I never found one that didn’t disrupt my workflow in some way, thanks to a poor interface or complicated usage. The best ones I’ve tried have been products such as PTHPasteboard and iPaste, which make recent Clipboard contents available via a menu-bar menu. But as someone who prefers to use the keyboard as much as possible, I kept looking. (The launcher utility Butler includes similar features, but since I personally prefer LaunchBar, that wasn’t an option for me.)
Last week, I found not one, but two utilities that may have brought my search to an end. First, Scott Silverman, over on our MacUser blog, pointed out Steve Cook’s free, open-source Jumpcut 0.6 ( ). Then I saw the press release for the $14 PopCopy 2.1 ( ). Both utilities work in a similar manner: They automatically keep track of every item you copy to the Clipboard—PopCopy an infinite number of Clipboard contents, Jumpcut a user-defined number—and make those contents available via the menu bar or, even better, a pop-up bezel that appears when you press a user-defined keyboard shortcut.
To access previous Clipboard contents with either utility, you press your chosen keyboard shortcut; a translucent “bezel” display appears on the screen displaying past Clipboard contents—one at a time for Jumpcut, three at a time for PopCopy. Press the alphanumeric portion of the shortcut (for example, for the shortcut Command-Option-V, the V) repeatedly—or use the left/right arrow keys—to highlight the desired Clipboard content. With PopCopy, releasing the shortcut keys automatically pastes the chosen content to the frontmost application (assuming it can accept those contents, of course). Jumpcut can work the same way, but I prefer its option to leave the bezel onscreen until you either press the return key to paste or press the escape key to cancel—PopCopy doesn’t offer such an option, which means you must paste something, even if you no longer want to. (This is my biggest complaint about PopCopy.)
As mentioned above, I like the fact that Jumpcut can keep its Clipboard display on the screen without requiring you to hold down its keyboard shortcut. (Both utilities offer the option to copy the selected content to the Clipboard instead of pasting it immediately, but it’s still nice to be able to cancel the action completely.) You also can customize the translucency of Jumpcut’s bezel, choose the number of recent Clipboard contents to remember, and choose how many recent Clipboard contents are included in Jumpcut’s menu-bar menu. Jumpcut is also a bit smarter when you copy the same text twice: It recognizes that the text is already on the Clipboard and doesn’t save an additional copy; PopCopy creates a second, identical Clipboard entry. Finally, Jumpcut numbers each saved Clipboard, making it clear which is the most recent Clipboard, the second most recent Clipboard, and so on. With PopCopy, there’s no indicator and, making the situation more confusing, you can cycle from the last Clipboard to the first (and vice-versa), so you never know which is the most recent.
PopCopy, on the other hand, has its own advantages, the most significant of which is that it works with text, images, files/folders, and even clippings from iWeb, Keynote, and Pages. (Jumpcut works only with text.) And if you choose, PopCopy can show a preview of the most recent Clipboard contents in the menu bar; this can waste valuable menu space for text contents, but it can be useful for images.
Both utilities can remember your multiple Clipboards between application launches and even restarts. One other “feature” of both—which will be either a drawback or an advantage, depending on your perspective—is that the formatting of pasted text will match that of the text into which it’s being pasted; the style of copied text is not preserved.
Both of these utilities are excellent and, in my opinion, demonstrate how a multiple-Clipboard utility should work. They’re easy to use and convenient—you can access multiple stored Clipboards and paste their contents without ever removing your fingers from the keyboard—and their attractive translucent bezel displays look like they belong in Mac OS X. Which should you choose? I personally prefer Jumpcut’s “stick on the screen” approach, especially since it lets me decide not to paste anything if I change my mind. And it’s hard to argue with free. However, if you need the ability to store and access Clipboards containing images and/or files and folders, PopCopy is the way to go, and PopCopy also makes it easier to browse through your past Clipboards by displaying three at a time instead of Jumpcut’s one. If you could combine the strengths of both, you’d have a near-perfect utility, but until then, you’ll have to decide which one fits your needs better.
Jumpcut and PopCopy work with Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later and are Universal Binaries.