Copying and pasting is as fundamental to life in front of a computer screen as pressing the gas and brake pedal when driving a car. It’s boring and not very noteworthy. But that’s not going to keep me from talking about it. Oh, no. Not at all. If you do a lot of copying and pasting, you might be able to get even better at it by using a clipboard history utility. My favorite is the one that comes with LaunchBar.

How come you say? Well, ‘cause I

  • like making refinements to repetitious activities,
  • copy and paste stuff a lot,
  • have a fondness for keyboard shortcuts,
  • like pasting plain text free of formatting and other gunk,
  • write bookoodles of stuff in Markdown and like automating it, and
  • I like quickly building lists of items that can be pasted into emails, documents, text files, and all sorts of other places where lists are welcome.

A history of the clipboard, LaunchBar style

Most of the following comes straight from LaunchBar’s Clipboard History help page with the seasoning of my own experience sprinkled on for extra flavor.

My LaunchBar clipboard settings

The keyboard shortcut

By default, Command-\ invokes LaunchBar’s clipboard history.

After invoking, continue holding Command, and use your up and down arrow keys to move through the list. Select the item you want, and release the keys to paste.

Quite often, I find myself copying multiple things from the same source. For example, I often need to copy both a web page's title and its URL. Instead of flipping back and forth twice, I can do both copies back-to-back, then retrieve them from the clipboard history in the order I need.

In general, I find that the less I'm switching between windows, the more efficient I am.

Pasting plain text

It’s exceedingly rare that I want to paste text with formatting. Normally, all I want is the plain, unadulterated stuff.

Checking “As Plain Text” means that no formatting will travel with your text to its ultimate destination. But fear not: you can still paste formatting by pressing the Option key.

The nice thing about keeping “As Plain Text” checked is that, for me anyway, Command-\ has become a substitute for Command-V (the default keyboard shortcut for pasting).

Merging clipboard items

This is where you can really give your copy/paste productivity a turbo boost. I use clipboard merge to quickly build lists of things. You might want to, too.

To merge items, press Command-C to copy the first item, then Command-C Command-C (twice, that is) to merge successive items with existing items. Each successive item will be stacked like:

First chunk of text
Second chunk of text
Third chunk of text

And so on.

This is a super handy way to compile of list of disjointed items from a PDF, web page, etc.

File operations

I use LaunchBar to quickly navigate through folders on my Mac. I also use it frequently to move and copy files to and fro. Until very recently, however, I thought that I could only work with one file at a time. Oh, silly me.

To select multiple files with LaunchBar, select the first file by pressing Command-C, then select additional files by pressing Command-C-C for each one. You can even do this with files in different folders!

Once you have all the files you want, you can do several useful things:

  • Paste onto a folder to copy the files to that folder.
  • Paste into a Mail window to attach them to the message.
  • Press Command-Shift-V in LaunchBar to select these files.

This last one is particularly interesting; I discovered it only recently. Command-Shift-V tells LaunchBar that you want to do something with the files using LaunchBar.

If you’re familiar with moving copying and moving files using LaunchBar, you know that process is basically this:

  1. Select file in LaunchBar
  2. Press Tab
  3. Type an “operation.” For example, type an application name, then Return to open with that app; navigate to folder, then Return to copy/move file to that folder; type email contact and Return to attach to message; and more.

After you’ve pressed Command-Shift-V, you can pick up at step 2 above, and it works exactly the same way.

In other words, Command-Shift-V is the ticket to working with multiple files at once – something that I previously thought only Quicksilver could do.

Do you have any shareworthy clipboard history tricks?

I’d love to hear them.