Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tech Column: Multi Clipboards

by Bill Adler

When the original iPhone came out, it lacked one important feature. (Well, it lacked many features, but one stood out in particular.) There was no clipboard. You couldn't copy and paste. I'm not sure what was going through Apple's mind when they decided not to have this basic function on their flagship phone, but when Apple finally updated the iPhone's operating system, they crowed about copy and paste in their television commercials as if they had invented it.

Try not using copy and paste on your smartphone or computer for a day. You won't be able to, I bet.

But copy and paste can be better. Why settle for just being able to copy and paste one thing? Why not have a clipboard that retains the last ten things you copy? Or last 100? Or all of them? Why not a clipboard that can keep items permanently -- text that you use over and over again?

There are clipboard enhancements that do that, and more. I use one called Clipmate, www.tornsoft.com; another popular multi clipboard is M8, http://m8software.com/clipboards/freeclip/freeclip.htm . For the Mac there's Jumpcut, http://jumpcut.sourceforge.net and PTH Pasteboard, http://pth.com/products/pthpasteboard, among others.

You can have a temporary set of the most recent 100 clips (or 500 or whatever number you choose), as well as a separate list of permanent clips -- information that you paste into documents frequently. Some multi clipboards, such as Clipmate, which I use and can't live without, let you organize your clips into groups, so you can have a set of email signatures, correspondence templates, phone numbers, email addresses -- any information you need to paste into documents, emails, IMs, or websites on a regular basis.

A multi clipboard can act like like an undo button, too. That's how I use Clipmate most frequently. Have you ever had a form or document that you're writing in the cloud disappear? Programs like Google Docs and Microsoft Word auto-save, but many other websites and web forms don't. Just copy what you're writing -- that good ol' Control-C in Windows and Command-C in Mac, and you've saved the most recent version. Then if you lose your Internet connection or the site goes south, you won't have lost your hard work.

(Here's an extra clipboard tip: In Windows, if you want to paste plain text into a document, use Control-Shift V instead of Control-V; that will strip out any extra formatting, including wonky fonts, that were in the original but that you don't want in your document.)

I wish that the iPhone had a multi clipboard. When Apple decides that's a useful feature for the iPhone and iPad, too, they'll announce it with another parade of television commercials.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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