Clips: More Than Just a Clipboard Organizer

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on May 2nd, 2011.

I used to think of the Mac clipboard as a mysterious, magical place that held all my copied information in some unknown place that I could never access, but that sometimes gave me exactly what I needed.

When I got into web development, I realized that I needed to find this enigmatic clipboard and put it to good use. Enter Clips, a newly released premium clipboard manager for Mac.

Clips’ developers claim that using Clips will increase your productivity while you work on your mac, find out if it really can make your computing more fruitful after the jump!

Clipboard Management

Clips sits in either your menu bar or dock, and runs as a background utility much like many other menu bar apps. When you open Clips, it starts to record everything you copy to the clipboard for later use.

To access your clips, click on the menu bar dropdown menu and select the clip you want either from the “All” menu or from the specific applications it was copied from (not copied to).

Clips menu bar dropdown

Clips menu bar dropdown

In addition to the menu bar options, you can also access your clips through three other interfaces: organizer, board and panel, which can be launched via keyboard shortcut or the menu bar.

Organizer

The organizer is the main interface for organizing and browsing your clips. Either all or part of each clip is displayed in thumbnail or list form, and you can filter the clips according to application.

Double-clicking on a clip brings up the inspector window for that clip, where you can flag it to make it easier to find, assign it to “clipboard” (which is like a folder) and add abbreviations or shortcuts (more on that later).

I'm not a fan of the fuzzy text rendering

I'm not a fan of the fuzzy text rendering

Many of the options in the inspector panel are greyed out, but still work. Weird.

Many of the options in the inspector panel are greyed out, but still work. Weird.

Smart Clipboards

Clips allows you to create powerful Smart Clipboards with defined rules by content, date or application. I found this very useful, as I could group similar clips together, even though they came from different applications, like grouping all code together by assigning clips from Coda, NetBeans and Terminal into a smart clipboard.

Making rules for a "Code" clipboard

Making rules for a "Code" clipboard

Board

The board is a dashboard-like interface for accessing your clips, with all the filtering options available in the organizer. It disperses your clips across your screen randomly, allowing you to browse visually for what you’re looking for.

I found this a somewhat helpful option for when I only had a few clips, but the interface quickly became crowded.

Clips' Board interface

Clips' Board interface

Panel

The panel interface is a semi-transparent window that floats over top other applications, allowing you quick access to your most recent clips. The panel becomes opaque on hover, and inserts whichever clip you click on into the application you’re using.

The panel would probably be intrusive on a small laptop while browsing the internet for example, but if you’re working with single applications that require a lot of copy and pasting, it could be a real time saver.

The semi-transparent Clips panel

The semi-transparent Clips panel

Abbreviations

In my opinion, abbreviations are Clips’ most powerful feature, and really separate it from the free alternatives. Like the more expensive apps TypeIt4Me and TextExpander, Clips allows you to select an abbreviation that, when typed, is replaced by a longer clip of text, in any application. Though not as powerful as dedicated text expansion apps, this feature is probably useful enough to be worth the $5 on its own.

Adding an abbreviation to a clip

Adding an abbreviation to a clip

When selecting abbreviations, I suggest selecting a lesser-used “trigger” character to add to the beginning or end of each abbreviation, so you don’t drive yourself crazy with unintentional expansions. For example, if I want to type out my whole address, I just type add\ and it expands, and it doesn’t interfere with normal typing because I almost never use backslashes.

Conclusion

I was very skeptical of Clips to start – I’ve been using the free app ClipMenu for ages and have always loved it. After really digging into the features, however, I found that it has a lot more to offer than simple clipboard access.

Though I found the “Board” and “Panel” interfaces a bit superfluous, the ability to organize my clips by application or smart clipboard, and access them from the menu bar, was really handy.

My favorite feature, however, is abbreviations. I’ve tried both TextExpander and TypeItForMe and found them useful, but overly complex and too expensive. I think Clips manages to balance being both powerful and unobtrusive quite well.

If you type a lot on your computer, and just need access to your copy and paste history, Clips might be overkill – and I can’t recommend ClipMenu highly enough. However, I think anyone who writes code, fills out a lot of forms, or types a lot of similar text will find Clips to be a big time saver.


Summary

Clips is a powerful clipboard manager which offers a rich feature set including text expansion, and a variety of interfaces to choose from.

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