PopClip: The Unexpectedly Awesome Productivity Tool

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

PopClip does quite a bit right out of the box

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.

Extensions for everyone!

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.

PopClip adapts to what you’re doing

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.

As customizable as you like

Conclusion

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.


Summary

An iOS style popover to let you quickly copy, paste, search, and so much more with any text you select.

10
  • http://technicallysimple.com Tim Stringer

    Great review Matthew…and a well deserved 10/10. I also tend to be very keyboard focused and was surprised at how much I use PopClip. One of my favourite use cases is to dial the phone via the Dialectic app. Once everything is configured I can select a phone number on a document, website, wherever…and then call it through my selected dialling method (the choices in my case are: Skype, iPhone and land line via USB modem). I also frequently use PopClip for case conversion — for example to convert something from UPPER CASE to Title Case. Quick and intuitive.

  • Jeremy

    Been using this for quite a while now (Several months, at least) and I love it. Such a timer saver.

  • Ben Singleton

    likewise – been using for about two weeks, and unlike a lot of small, cheap apps, this one fills an empty space, and does not get in the way. Use constantly.

  • Paul

    This is a big difference maker for me. I use it multiple times daily. Well worth the price!

  • Josh

    Problem with Popclip is it makes using any other computer without it feel broken. Easily a 10/10

  • http://www.albertkinng.com Albert Kinng

    I’ve been a user of iClipboard since it came with Sticky Notes back in the days and I’m so used to that now that I don’t see myself using this utility.

    But I know my wife and my sister will love it! 10/10

  • MacWho?

    I was using this app when it first launched… and still

  • m33t

    After reading this article i installed it again but just this morning i had to disable it.

    Maybe it is me, but i find it very irritating and “getting in the way” pretty often. I use the clipboard on a regular basis, many shortcuts and try to avoid the mouse… The tool is just not fitting my way of working with the Mac (and lots of text).

    I guess it can be a great tool, but it really depends on the user.

    • Phillip Gruneich

      You’re not alone there, mate. I recognize PopClip as a great extension, but I just can’t have it around, i’m a keyboard-driven kind of user.

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      I too am very keyboard driven and still find PopClip useful. The fact that you can blacklist some apps so popclip doesn’t appear and then trigger it with the keyboard is great!

      Quick workflow in Alfred and I’m hooked

  • Jawad

    Don’t know why but PopClip doesn’t allow you to ‘Look up in dictionary’. It directly opens the Dictionary unlike the original ‘Look up in Dictionary’ feature of OS X.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      True, that did strike me as odd. I turned off PopClip’s dictionary option, myself, and stuck with 3-finger-taps for dictionary.

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  • Michael Long

    I wondered about this, browsed the list of extensions, and then saw “Append”, which appends the currently selected text to the text already in the clipboard.

    Huzzah! I am FOREVER copying article titles to emails, then going back again to get the article URL. This lets me grab everything I need at once, and then paste it once.

    I’d have paid $10 for this feature.

  • lynden swift

    Popclip is fantastic. I have come to rely on it in the sense of expecting it to be there whenever I double click on text – it’s really startling when it’s not available; like on a windows system at work. I had no idea of these extensions so thank you loads for highlighting them. What an amazing app – one of those ‘so simple its obvious’ apps – yet no one had thought of it before!

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