Simple Questions: What is the Clipboard in Windows & How to Manage It?

If you've used computers for a while you know what Copy and Paste are and you might have heard of the Clipboard concept. But do you really know what the Clipboard is and do you know that there are third party tools that help you manage it better and turn it into a more flexible concept?

What is the Clipboard in Windows?

In Windows and other operating systems, the Clipboard is a short-term storage area for all kinds of information that you have copied from one place and you plan to use in another place. You can copy just about anything to the Clipboard: strings of text, images, video, files, folders, shortcuts, etc.

When you copy (or cut) something, it is stored in the Clipboard. When you copy (or cut) something else, that piece of information overwrites the previous contents. This is because Windows provides support for a single clipboard transaction.

When you paste the contents of the Clipboard, the contents remains available for further pasting operations. It is overwritten only when you copy or cut something else.

What Can You Copy to the Clipboard?

Just about anything that can be selected in Windows: text of all kinds, graphics, files (including shortcuts) or folders.

What Can You Paste from the Clipboard?

Pasting the contents of the Clipboard depends on where you want to perform the paste. For example, if you are working with text, you can paste text only in apps and programs that work with text. Following the same rule, you can paste graphics only in apps and programs that work with graphics, and so on.

If the contents of the Clipboard cannot be pasted where you want to, it will not be pasted there but the contents of the Clipboard will remain intact.

How to Manage the Clipboard in Windows?

Windows XP had a Clipboard Viewer that allowed users to view the contents of the local clipboard, clear the clipboard or save copied and cut items.

Unfortunately, this program was removed from Windows Vista and subsequent versions of Windows, including Windows 8.1.

Therefore, if you want to view the contents of the clipboard and manage it, you must use third-party programs developed by companies other than Microsoft. If you are looking for a god list of suggestions, try this one: List of clipboard software.

From all the programs in the list there is one that caught our attention as being a very elegant solution that's easy to use and learn. It is named Shapeshifter.

How to Manage your Clipboard with Shapeshifter

After you install Shapeshifter, you are asked to select one of the three possible ways of interacting with it: Mixed, Integrated and External.

When using it for the first time, I highly recommend using the Mixed mode. That's because it offers both ways of using it (Integrated and External) combined into one. After you learn more about how to use it you can switch to either of the two.

External mode means that you will use this app with your mouse and keyboard. On the taskbar, when you hover over its icon, you can see all the items that were copied to the Clipboard. To paste any of them, click the item you want. Easy and effective.

Integrated mode is for those that prefer the keyboard. After copying at least two items to the Clipboard, press and hold Ctrl + V. A list is displayed with all the items that were copied to the Clipboard.

Select the item you want to paste.

When you exit the application or you close Windows, the Clipboard is cleared.


I hope you found this article useful. If there's anything you want to add or ask, don't hesitate to use the comments form below.