Copy text snippets between Macs running Leopard

One of my favorite OS X 10.5 features is screen sharing—having five Macs scattered about the house, it’s a great way to quickly do something on another machine without having to first move to that machine. (You can do the same thing in previous versions of OS X, but it’s not as easy to set up.) Apple has even thoughtfully included the ability to send items to and from the remote Mac’s clipboard—just use the Edit -> Send Clipboard and Edit -> Get Clipboard menu items (or click the relevant toolbar button).

While this works, it’s overkill if you just want some snippet of text from the remote machine. For instance, say you’d loaded a URL in your browser on the remote Mac, and you want to load that same URL on the Mac you’re using. If it’s a simple URL, you can just retype it. But if it’s a complex URL, you’ll want to copy it, then use the Get Clipboard feature in screen sharing to move it to your local Mac. Here’s a simpler alternative: it turns out you can drag and drop text to and from the remote Mac! So for the complex URL, just highlight it in the address bar of the remote Mac’s browser, click and hold the mouse button down for a second, then drag the text off the edge of the screen sharing window. After a brief delay, you’ll see the dragged text appear over your cursor on the local Mac. Now just continue dragging to the destination application (your local browser’s address bar, in this example), then release the mouse button to drop the text.

As noted, you can drag text in either direction—to or from the remote Mac, and it seems to work with every program I tested it with, including some (Firefox, Office 2004 applications) that are occasionally non-conformist in their actions. This is a great timesaver when you just need a little chunk of text moved from one machine to the other.

If you need non-text data from the other machine, though, you’ll need to use the clipboard functions, as this dragging trick only works with text. And if you need to transfer files, you’ll have to do that as if you were sitting in front of that Mac—drag a file onto a mounted server, for instance, or drop it into a user’s drop box. DropCopy greatly eases the task of transferring files—I highly recommended it if you move a lot of files around your network.

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