13 January 2008

#53. Getting Clipped and Loving It

We don’t allow our customers to get clipped* at the Tool Bar & Grill. But we do like to help them manage their clips. Clips, of course, are items that you copy or cut, for pasting elsewhere.
[*For my non-American readers, “getting clipped” is slang for being cheated.]
Windows provides a “clipboard” that remembers the last clip you copied or cut, enabling you to paste it. But the primitive Windows clipboard holds only one item. Copy something else, and your first clip is gone forever. Sorry, Bill, that’s not good enough. To work efficiently, we need to copy many items from various places, and then paste some here, some there… and keep some permanently for repeated future pasting (i.e., “boilerplate”).
True, Microsoft Office has an enhanced clipboard that holds up to 24 items. Sorry, Bill, still not good enough – we need still more clips, and not just when using Office.
Fortunately for you, the Internet offers many clipboard management utilities that hold large numbers of clips, and enable us to do far more with them, absolutely free. Even more fortunately, you have me to recommend the best among them. And on top of that, you also have Mark Lautman to tell you about Linux clipboard managers.
Having tried many clipboard managers over many years, I now rank ClipMagic and ArsClip as my favorites.
Gold Medal: ArsClip
ArsClip is a the clipboard tool I use on a day-to-day basis. This free, open-source utility stores both rich text (but only if saved as a permanent item, that is, boilerplate) and graphics with previews. You can edit text clips, and you can arrange how they appear in the list (see the example below), with multiple categories of boilerplate clips. You can search for clips, and ArsClip also remembers recently deleted clips on a submenu.
To paste a stored clip, just pop up the list with a hot key and select the clip with the mouse or keyboard.
ArsClip won first place with its efficient balance between deep functionality and ease of use. It works will all versions of Windows.
Silver Medal: ClipMagic
ClipMagic is former shareware that is now free. Its rich array of features results in some complexity, but the learning curve is by no means an Everest. ClipMagic supports rich text and graphics with preview. You can edit and merge text clips and check their spelling.
You can set up a tree of categories for your clips, and specify the age or number of clips to keep for each category (forever for boilerplate). You can define rules for automatically categorizing clips, ignoring certain types, and more. You can search for clips and filter the list.
What’s more, ClipMagic stores metadata about each clip; for example, you can attach searchable notes to a clip. And if you copy a clip from a Web site, ClipMagic records the address with the clip (see the screen shot below). The clip database can be backed up automatically on a schedule.
The main reason ClipMagic took second place is that its primary function, pasting clips, is more complicated than it should be. Even if you change the default configuration to enable easier pasting, you still must open the clip list, select an item, close the list, and then paste the item. ClipMagic also includes a screen capture tool (window or region), but this did not work for me.
ClipMagic is the choice when you need to classify and manipulate clips in many ways. It claims to work with Windows versions up to XP (I have not tried it with Vista yet).
Bronze Medal: It's a Tie
Honorable mention goes to:
Yankee Clipper III is distinguished by its simplicity and drag-and-drop operation. Its erratic forgetfulness on my system behavior cost it a higher rank.
Clipboard Help+Spell offers sophisticated features like spell-checking, basic formatting (trim lines, strip characters, change case), automatic database backup, and more. But its inability to preserve rich text formatting and graphics, and its steep learning curve, hold it back.
Clipboard Management in Linux
By Mark Lautman
There we were in the Linux Room, finalizing our column for this week's issue of the Tool Bar and Grill. All of the sudden the editor-in-chief came in.
“Stop whatever you’re doing. We're doing a special edition for clipboard utilities.”
“But, boss, I just figured out how to break into the Chinese banking system. I think our readers will be more interested in free money than in clipboard...”
“Never mind that! Our readers are a spiritual crowd, and they want utility, not instant wealth!”
When we talk about managing the clipboard in Linux, the first question we need to ask is “Which clipboard?” There are three that I know of:
  • The desktop clipboard (accessed by Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V)
  • The Xterm clipboard (accessed by selecting text in a command window)
  • The VIM clipboard (accessed by a " and a register letter)
The VIM clipboard is native to that program, so there is little magic available for it.
However, for the first two clipboards, there is a nifty utility called Glipper (for Gnome) and Klipper (included with KDE). It picks up all your copies or selects, and you can display them by pressing a shortcut key (Ctrl+Alt+C by default). This utility works only for text, not graphics or other objects. Here’s what it looks like:
If you are running KDE, you can also use the included xclipboard. This utility collects your copies from the desktop. You can edit text entries. Click Next or Previous, and then paste the visible entry into the target application. It seems to copy all objects, but I couldn't get it to paste graphics into OpenOffice.
One small Java utility can be used with all operating systems: clip2png. This saves a graphic in the clipboard as a Portable Network Graphics (PNG) file on your desktop. —Mark Lautman
Thanks for getting clipped at the Tool Bar & Grill today. Please return every week for more great utility recommendations. And feel free to explore our advertisers’ offerings by clicking on the ads in and alongside this column.
Did I overlook your favorite utility? Tell us about it by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.


  1. Thank you for the clipper round-up. After trying several multi-clipboard utilities (including some of the mentioned) I have settled with the open-source Ditto which serves me perfectly (I especially like the incremental search). However, I still use version 3.9.0 since I don't have any problems with it and don't need the new features.

  2. Thank you for commenting, Gunther, and alerting me to Ditto. I will check it out soon and publish an update if needed. I hope my blog is useful to you.

  3. Jonathan I just wanted to thank you for your Tool Bar & Grill. I almost always find a valuable program I never even knew existed!

  4. Phil, thank you very much for your kind comment. It's always a thrill to learn that my efforts have helped someone. I write this blog as a labor of love (it doesn't make money), and compliments like yours help keep me going!

  5. Don't forget ClipX

    The smallest and the one I frequently use :) Oldy but a goody for a 95 - XP user

    Keep up the good work

    Best Freeware Downloads and tips to optimize your system
    Member of The Freeware Revolution

  6. tf76, thanks for commenting and for bringing ClipX to our attention. I didn't forget ClipX, I just wasn't aware of it. But I already have downloaded it and will try it out; if I really like it, I will write an update in the near future.

  7. Jonathan, thank you very much for your blog!
    I'm a real tool lover (if not junk ;°) especially when they are just one small exe file. I found already some nice little gems of which I didn't know they existed.

    I 100% agree with your conclusion about ArsClip. I tried many of them (including all the ones you mentioned in your post ànd the ones mentioned in the comments above) but found ArsClip the one that best combined ease of use with power.
    It never left my machines since I installed it.

    Keep up the (very) good work!
    Kind regards.

    PS. There's a typo in your post:
    "It works will all versions of Windows" (will => with)

  8. Geert, thank you very much for your compliments. It's always a thrill to find out my blog is helpful to someone. I hope you'll spread the word to all your friends too. And I apologize for that unbelievable careless typo! I am so embarrassed -- but I admire your eagle eye in spotting it.

  9. A very nice list of these clipper-apps.

    Nevertheless I want to mention my favorite clipboard extension, it is called CLCL. http://www.nakka.com/soft/clcl/index_eng.html

    It is pretty basic, but does its job. I've got pretty used to Alt-C to activate it. ;)

  10. Daniel, thank you for your kind words, and for recommending the CLCL clipboard utility. I have downloaded it, and will check it out soon. If I like it and decide to recommend it, I'll post an update.

  11. Leland Whitlock was kind enough to write the following comment, but for unknown reasons it was not published here (probably some screw-up of mine). So here is Leland's comment:

    To get the latest on software firewalls for Windows check out Matousec at http://www.matousec.com/ If you read through this site I think you will be surprised at the lack of security provided by the free Zone Alarm you are using. I know Comodo came out with another update yesterday, you might want to give it another try. Also, did you try with HIPS turned off? For many users HIPS will cause issues unless you understand the inner workings of your computer. Anyway good luck with Comodo.

  12. Leland, thanks very much for the updated information about Matousec and the Comodo Firewall. In fact, I am already familiar with the Matousec firewall testing site and a couple of others, and such tests are a main reason I endorsed Comodo a long time ago.

    I have been using only Windows XP up to now... but my new ThinkPad with Vista is expected to arrive any day now, so soon I will be able to test utilities on both XP and Vista (I'm keeping the XP machine). And I already had decided to give Comodo a third chance on the new machine. I hope to report better results soon.

  13. I found a problem with some clipboard enhancers; if you throw clips at them very fast, they can't always keep up. I use Horst Schaeffer's CLIPTEXT http://home.mnet-online.de/horst.muc/wbat32.htm#cliptextcommandline
    tool to send small text files to the clipboard, like this:

    for %a in (a.txt b.txt c.txt ...) do cliptext from %a

    The files are from about 4 to 80K, usually all different. I found ArsClip and Clipboard Magic only recorded some of them. ClipboardHelp and Spell caught ALL of them. I like ArsClip, and usually use it as my duty program, but I also load CHS for safety.

    You didn't mention that both ArsClip and CHS have automated maintenance, sophisticated in the latter's case, for deleting old clips; and both can be set to ignore clips from certain programs, useful if you send passwords through the clipboard.

    -- Hengist_Ludd

  14. Thank you, Hengist_Ludd, for your helpful added information about the clipboard utilities I reviewed. I was unaware of the speed-clipping problem — I just don't work that fast — and your message is a valuable warning to our readers who collect clips automatically, such as through batch files. That's another point in Clipboard Help+Spell's favor.

    As for my omitting certain features, I apologize. The features you mention are good ones indeed. However, in a brief review such as this, it is impossible to discover all (or even most) of the utilities' features and drawbacks, so I try to cover the most important ones as I see them.

    I welcome readers' alerting me to anything I've overlooked or correcting me when I'm wrong. I appreciate your reading my blog, and taking the trouble to write in about it.

    P.S. This is my second reply to your comment; my first seems to have gotten lost somewhere. If it shows up eventually, I apologize for the duplication.

  15. Oops! In my second paragraph just above, I meant "discuss," not "discover"! Even if I discover some features, I might not have room to discuss them all.

  16. Jonathan,

    It might take months to discover all the features, let alone discuss them!

    You might also like CLCL http://www.nakka.com/soft/clcl/index_eng.html

    I mostly use it when I want graphics, finding it better than ArsClip at that, and CHS doesn't do them at all. Basic features are easy; more advanced ones enigmatic. You can find a user-written tutorial on DonationCoder:


    AbteriX has written a good tutorial on its usage and has also
    compiled some reviews of the program.



    -- Hengist_Ludd

  17. Hi Jonathan, long time reader of your blog and all the goodies on offer.I must comment though on your comment to us non Americans about "Getting clipped".To us here in Australia, getting clipped is getting killed...Too much time watching the Sopranos I guess...great work

  18. Thanks for writing in and explaining what "getting clipped" means in Oz, 2nutz(?). I appreciate your regular readership, and hope I can continue to provide useful information. And don't forget to explore my advertisers' offerings, too!

  19. BTW in case your wondering, my nick 2nutz, is a character for my cartoon, as in "Everyone thinks im 2 nutz to know anything type a guy"