At a Glance
I’ve long touted the virtues of multiple-clipboard utilities, which store multiple recent Clipboard contents, letting you retrieve and paste any of those contents with ease. These utilities increase productivity in a number of ways, and I have trouble working efficiently without one. But I recently discovered CopySwap, a simple system add-on that takes a unique approach to increasing Clipboard productivity, and I’ve found it to be a great complement to having multiple Clipboards.
CopySwap comes in handy in the specific situation where you want to swap text between a document and the Clipboard—in other words, when you want to replace one section of text with another snippet, but keep the original for use elsewhere. Normally, you'd copy the text you want to paste, then paste it in the new location next to the text you’re replacing, then select the the text being replaced, and then use the Cut command. This isn’t an arduous set of steps, but if you perform the task many times each day, as I do, it can get tedious.
With CopySwap running, first you copy the replacement text, as you normally would, but then you select the text you want to replace and press CopySwap’s keyboard shortcut (by default, Command+Option+V, though you can choose whatever key combination you prefer). CopySwap swaps the selected text with the contents of the Clipboard—the replacement text is pasted, and the selected text takes its spot on the Clipboard, ready for pasting somewhere else.
When I first started using CopySwap, I had to force myself to stop and think before each paste: “Am I just pasting, or am I replacing some text that I’m going to use elsewhere?” (It turns out that I swap text much more often than I would have guessed prior to using CopySwap.) But once CopySwap became part of my normal workflow, I appreciated the steps it saved me each time I used it. And if you don’t want to have to make this mental adjustment, you can opt to always use the CopySwap keyboard shortcut instead of Mac OS X’s standard Paste command—if you paste text without selecting anything, CopySwap simply retains the Clipboard's current contents, just like the standard Paste command.
Earlier versions of CopySwap didn’t let you choose your preferred keyboard shortcut, which presented problems if you use programs—Word and BBEdit, for example—in which the default shortcut of Command+Option+V already do something. But the current version (1.1) lets you choose your own shortcut. (CopySwap runs as a background process, so you won’t see it in the Dock or the menu bar. This can be confusing if you want to configure the program’s preferences. To do so, just “open” the program again—by double-clicking it in the Finder, for example—and its preferences window will appear.) Unfortunately, CopySwap doesn’t currently provide a way to access its Clipboard-swapping feature with a mouse or trackpad—it’s the keyboard or not at all.
(Hat tip to Jim Dalrymple for pointing out CopySwap.)