The default Windows clipboard has two very obvious limitations: it can store only one item at a time and it is cleared every time the computer restarts. Clipboard replacement utilities will not only solve those problems, they will give you much more power over your clipboard.
These utilities provide a clipboard history and they come with additional features such as built-in text editor, additional information about the clip (date&time, origin), launch actions (such as google search) and more.
Because they replace such a basic system function, clipboard managers have to be simple to use, but that depends on how you use your computer. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to clipboard managers, so I suggest you try some of those freeware products for yourself and find the one that suits you the best.
Here I came up with a list of specifications to evaluate clipboard managers:
- Simple: Easy to setup and use. It should work as intended right out of the box, without any tweaks.
- Reliable: It can handle everything the default Windows clipboard can handle. It should be light on resources and fully compatible with the latest versions of Windows.
- Accessible: Easy to use with cursor-only, keyboard-only or a mix of both. It also needs a nice and clear interface.
- Powerful and customizable: Provide extra features for advanced users who need more options than simply copy, cut and paste.
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
Ditto is the best clipboard freeware out there and is the only one that fully met my specifications. It's simple yet powerful, extremely fast, light on resources, it stores unlimited clips in a sqlite database and it has hundreds of settings to play with. To name a few of its features: it has a search box that enables you to find a 3-day-old clipboard within seconds; 3 different virtual clipboards that you can access through dedicated shortcuts; and it has unique network capabilities, making clipboard sharing a reality. Ditto is actively developed, it is more robust, efficient and flexible than most of its competitors. It will fit the needs of both beginners and advanced users, no matter how the use their computer. Ditto has been my main clipboard replacement utility for almost two years, and it has never crashed yet.
On the downside, it's difficult to use the stickies feature.
CLCL is a simple and consistent clipboard manager that works particularly well with older windows versions, and is very easy to use with either keyboard or mouse. Its development stopped in 2005, and you have to install it manually, but CLCL's strong supporters are proof that it is worth the trouble.
ClipX is a clean and simple clipboard manager. Plugins are available to bring some interesting features like a color picker to copy the code of a color, stickies (permanent clips), "search in google" feature... It is not developed anymore (the latest beta was released in 2008), but it remains a very good clipboard manager.
Clipboard Help+Spell is a promising clipboard manager, full of features. You can add notes quickly, timestamps, there are powerful text edit features and a spell checker... It is actively developed but it has one major flaw: it does not handle anything else than text.
ArsClip is a good option for those looking for a portable clipboard manager. In the zip file, you'll find the portable version, the setup.exe and the source code.
Some users may be looking for specific features, so I decided to make a the list of the features I liked when reviewing clipboard freeware. No freeware includes all this features altogether, but I hope that having this list will make it easier for you to understand what you really want in a clipboard manager.
- Searchbox, permanent clips ("stickies"), groups and notes.
- Text editor: change case (lower case, upper case), find & replace, check spelling, paste as plain text, add notes, remove formatting/code.
- Remember context of clips : time, date, application from where it was copied, webpage from where it was copied. Additionally, copy timestamp.
- Export clips: create .txt file, print clips, send by mail, share through network.
- Custom action: Google a clip, launch URL, launch application, open file.
- Security: disable clipboard monitoring in specific applications, during a specific period of time, allow programs to delete last entry, allow user to delete specific clips, password protect the database.
- Append and merge clips, either before or after capture.
- Graphic editor and screenshot capabilities.
- Extract the content of a textfile or a graphic file to the clipboard.
- Change type of pasting (ctrl+v, shift+inser...) and actions, to accommodate special needs.
There are way too many clipboard managers out there to describe them all.
List of the clipboard managers I tested for this review: 101 clips (aka M8 free clipboard aka 25 clips), ArsClip, CLCL, Clipboard Help+Spell, Clipboard magic, Clipboard manager (agatasoft), Clipboard Recorder (lw-works), Clipboardic, Clipcube, Clipcycler, Clipguru, Clipmagic, Clipomatic, Cliptorrent, Cliptray, Clipx, Copycat, Ditto, Flashpaste lite, Hovtext, Insideclipboard, Memoclip, Multiclipboard, Pastecopy.net, phraseexpress, Sanvient, Shapeshifter, Tenclips, Yankee Clipper III, xNeat Clipboard manager.
Another list can be found in Clipboard Help + Spell help.
Phraseexpress is worth noting, although clipboard history is not its main feature. This productivity tool can help you assign abbreviations to your favorite expressions, correct your spelling on the go, launch programs or actions with a keyword... It also stores and organize your most used expressions. Another similar freeware is Flashpaste lite.
If you feel like your favorite clipboard manager didn't get the attention it deserved, feel free to drop a comment to explain why you feel so and I'll make sure to test it!
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Clipboard, clips, copy, paste, ctrl+c, ctrl+v