PopClip brings iOS-like text-editing options to Mac OS X
By Dan Frakes
At a glance
Ever since Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) was released, there’s been controversy over the obvious influence of Apple’s iOS. From gestures to scrolling to the overall interface, a good number of Mac users have complained that the Mac OS has become too similar to iOS. At the same time, there are people who wish OS X was more like iOS—or at least the good parts of it.
PopClip (Mac App Store link) is sure to appeal to those in the latter category, although after testing it, I think even Mac traditionalists might be tempted. With PopClip running, any time you select text, in any application, you get an iOS-like popover with options appropriate for the context.
For example, if you select read-only text (such as in a Web browser, in a PDF document, or in an incoming email message), the popover offers options to Search that text in your default search engine, to copy the text, or—if you’ve selected a single word—to get the word’s definition. If the text includes one or more URLs, a single email address, or a file path, you also get an option to open the links in your default browser, send an email to the address, or reveal the file in the Finder, respectively. And if a selected word is misspelled, you can bring up a popover filled with suggested replacements. Click on any item in the popover to perform its action.
You can also use PopClip to more-easily cut and paste text. If selected text is editable, the popover includes the option to cut; if you previously copied text using PopClip, you also get the option to paste the contents of the clipboard. Similarly, if you’ve copied text using PopClip, clicking anywhere in an editable document brings up a Paste popover.
The developer has provided a few useful options for tweaking PopClip. If a particular program doesn’t get along with PopClip—or if you’d just rather not see PopClip’s popovers in an app—you can add that program to PopClip’s excluded-apps list. You can also adjust the size of the popover, and you can disable specific types of commands (search, working with links, definitions, and spelling).
Overall, PopClip works well. Although I’m a keyboard jockey, I do sometimes access these various options using the mouse pointer, and I find PopClip to be easier—and quicker—than using traditional menu commands. It’s even more convenient than right-clicking selected text to access similar options from the contextual menu.
On the other hand, PopClip does have a few quirks. For example, the PopClip popover occasionally—though not frequently—fails to appear until selecting text a second time. And if you select a block of text, then select it (or a smaller block within it) again, the popover doesn’t appear; you must first click elsewhere and then reselect the text.
There are also a couple options I’d like to see added. Choosing PopClip’s dictionary-definition option launches OS X’s Dictionary app, rather than using OS X’s less-disruptive definition popover (which you normally access by holding the pointer over a word and pressing Control-Command-D); I’d like PopClip to use the latter. And as a keyboard-shortcut fan, I’d love to see PopClip’s popover appear whenever I’ve selected text using the keyboard—say, after a one-second pause, so it doesn’t appear while you’re still selecting text—and let you use the keyboard to choose from among the available commands. Still, for the many Mac users who are mouse/trackpad-focused, PopClip is unique and useful.
(Note: The current Mac App Store version of PopClip, 1.2.2, has a couple bugs, including one that causes the Firefox Web browser to launch whenever you launch PopClip. The developer is working on a fix, but you can currently download version 1.2.1 from the Pilotmoon website; this version is missing the Reveal in Finder option and a couple minor tweaks, but is otherwise similar to 1.2.2.)