UPDATE: Based on comments from readers and trying a few suggestions out, I ended up going with ClipX, a free product that does exactly what I’m looking for.
Clipboard manager, clipboard organizer… whatever you call it, what I went searching for yesterday was something that would help me with multiple copy/paste selections so I could re-use earlier items I’d copied. (In my case, I was doing several commits to source code repositories - fixing the same thing in different versions of software, so I wanted identical log messages but didn’t want to keep all of them in Notepad or whatever.)
Office comes with a clipboard manager but it only works when an Office program is running and, frankly, it’s not my favorite. I can’t put my finger on why - all I know is I see that thing and I’m instantly confused. Maybe I’m just uninitiated.
For the record, there is one feature missing from every single clipboard manager I’ve tried: I want to be able to select an item from the list and automatically have that replace whatever is currently on the clipboard. Every single one of these keeps track of what you put on the clipboard, but if you want to put one of the saved clips into your application, you have to double-click it and let the application do the “paste” action for you. I don’t want that. I want to be able to select the clip, then go back to whatever application and hit Ctrl-V myself. Trying to make sure the app the clipboard manager is going to do the paste in is the correct app is cumbersome and almost more trouble than it’s worth.
If someone knows of a [preferably free] clipboard manager that allows you to select an item and have it become active on the clipboard, let me know. If it’s good enough, I’d even consider paying for it. That’s how much I want that feature.
Oh, and several clipboard managers I came across use databases to store their stuff. No thanks. I don’t need another service running just to help manage my clipboard. I want this thing to be lightweight and self-contained.
Anyway, when I went searching I found a few different products. Here’s what I came out with:
LW-Works Clipboard Recorder: This is the one I’m currently using. There are two “views” for it - this little floating window (pictured) and a larger window that allows you to select one of the clips and preview it. It has support to preview several data types on the clipboard and is fairly configurable. You can set it up to show with a Windows hotkey, you can specify what sorts of things you want to be able to keep on the clipboard list, you can allow (or not) duplicate clippings from the same application… it’s pretty good. I like the detail with this one - two views, the primary view being a super-compact window that conserves space but isn’t so small it’s unusable; the fact it puts the icon of the application it grabbed the clip from right next to the clip; the fact it minimizes instead of closes if I hit the “X” button in the corner of the main window. If it had the selected-item-in-list-is-active-on-clipboard feature, this would be The One.
There is a free version and a professional version. The free version has anything you need for a general clipboard manager. The professional version adds the ability to have multiple clipboard lists, save lists for later retrieval, send clipboard items to another computer, and paste multiple items at the same time to an application.
Clipboard.NET: This is an open source project that is fairly young but is shaping up to have some nice features. The notion of having a plug-in framework for the clipboard monitor is appealing to me, and this has that. Several of the features (“Paste As HTML,” “Google This,” etc.) are implemented as plugins, and that’s cool. The UI could use a little help as it is fairly large to have running all the time and has a lot of wasted space. There are a lot of options that could be added as well. Unfortunately, I spoke to the author and he doesn’t have much time to dedicate to this lately, so unless someone else steps up, we may not see this come to fruition.
Ditto: This is a pretty popular open source project that has a lot of features. Too many features, in fact. So many, I almost can’t even tell you what the thing can do. I mean… well, let me show you, rather than tell you: Notice how there are six tabs’ worth of options? Each tab has the bajillion options on it that you see here. The working of the application is about this complex. Maybe it’s just me - I bet this thing would do all I need it to if I could only wade through all the options and figure out how to get it to work.
It feels like this started out cool but ended up with huge feature-creep. Definitely by programmers for programmers. My mom would never be able to figure this out. And, honestly, I’m not eager to personally take something like this on.
So there you have it. I haven’t yet found “the perfect clipboard manager.” Like I said above, though - if someone has one that they think can satisfy me, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment with a link so I can try it out. The key feature - in fact, it might have the worst UI ever but this feature would make it worth it - is to select an item and have that become the active clipboard item. None of these do that.