There’s two kinds of Mac users: the ones who love the iOS-style simplification that’s come to OS X in recent years, and the older-school Mac users who love the keyboard shortcuts, automation, scripting, terminal, and more that make OS X one of the most powerful – and productive – operating systems on the market. These two camps seldom find common ground.
When PopClip first came out, I tried it out, but decided I vastly preferred tried-and-true keyboard shortcuts, and uninstalled the trial. It just wasn’t for me, and felt like iOS eye candy compared to what I was used to.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that PopClip is quite the productivity tool these days, one that geeks and everyone else can love. What made the difference? Extensions.
Copy, Paste, and so Much More
By default, PopClip is very similar to the familiar selection pop-over in iOS. Just select text, or click in a text editing area, and you’ll see the familiar dark popover giving you options to copy or paste text, correct spelling on misspelled words, and define selected words. PopClip has a few extra tricks: it’ll detect links and email addresses and let you open or copy them, and can start a web search for anything you’ve selected. Nothing too amazing, and nothing you couldn’t have already accomplished with a keyboard shortcut or a right-click.
What’s awesome this time is PopClip’s Extensions. Head over there for a minute, and you’ll suddenly see that PopClip is far more than just an iOS-style copy/paste tool. Instead, it could easily be the productivity tool for the Mac that Drafts is for iOS. There’s options to use PopClip to turn selected text into a todo or note in your favorite app, tweet or email it, add it to a calendar appointment, translate it, and much more.
You can turn Markdown text into HTML in one click (rather handy if you like writing in Markdown but your web app – say WordPress – needs HTML formatting). You can call phone numbers with Skype, send links to Instapaper or Pocket, run a terminal command, search tons of different sites, have your Mac speak text out loud, turn a typed-out math problem into its answer … or make your own extension that works just like you want.
All those extensions could get a bit overwhelming if they all came up at once, but PopClip is smarter than that. It’ll only show the extensions and built-in options that make sense for the text you have selected. A to-do list or note app extension, say, would always show up when you select text, but they wouldn’t show up when you click in a blank text area to paste something. The Skype extension will only show up when you select a phone number (and yes, international numbers work, too), and link-based extensions like Instapaper or the built-in link tool will only show when the text you’ve selected contains a link. For lack of a better term, it just works.
Keeping Things in Control
Now, sadly, there’s a bit of a practical limit to the number of extensions that you can use in PopClip, but that’s not as much of a problem as before since PopClip recently raised the number of extensions to 22. You can organize them right from your menubar, turning off the ones you don’t want to use, and changing accounts on extensions (like Instapaper) that take an account. You can even turn off PopClip temporally if you want, or have it not run automatically in certain apps. But I happen to bet you’ll want to use it in every app once you get used to it. It’s that handy.
If there’s anything I love, it’s when an app goes from something I don’t really care about to something that’s an essential part of my workflow. The Alfred Power Pack turned it into an irreplaceable part of my workflow, and now extensions have done the same to PopClip for me. PopClip is definitely something you should check out now.
Best of all, PopClip is part of the Get Things Done promotion on the Mac App Store, and is on sale for just $2.99 through tomorrow. That makes it a great time to go grab a copy if you aren’t already using it. Then, be sure to get some extensions; that’s what really makes PopClip awesome.