There are many instances where you might need more than one level of copied data from the Microsoft Windows clipboard, but with the default action, you are out of luck. Once you have copied data to the default clipboard, that's all you get. If you need another level of copy, you're going to have to look elsewhere. Fortunately there is somewhere you can look, and that somewhere is a stellar freeware application called ArsClip.
ArsClip monitors the Windows clipboard and keeps track of the last 15 levels (the default amount) of copied text entries. The utility can be configured to show more items in the clipboard popup and can be configured to also save non-text items. ArsClip resides in the system tray, takes up little resources, has a configurable hot key, and is simple to use. The only downside to ArsClip is that it must be manually started every time you log in. But that is a small price to pay for having a far more usable clipboard. With all that said, let's get to the goods.
Getting and installing
Download the zip file from the joejoesoft Web site and unzip the file. You will find a new directory created called acvXXX (where XXX is the version number of the download). Switch to that directory and you will find one file, five uncompressed directories, and one compressed directory. The file is the executable binary. The compressed directory is the source code for the application. One of the uncompressed directories is the configuration directory, and the rest of the uncompressed directories are cache folders for the application.
Because of the way ArsClip uses its cache directories, you cannot move the executable file out of the acvXXX directory. You can, however, create a shortcut to the executable anywhere you like. So you might want to move the acvXXX directory to a location other than your Downloads directory so that it is safe from accidental removal. Just make sure you remember where you put it.
Starting ArsClipStarting the application is simple; from within the acvXXX directory you will see the ArsClip executable file. Double-click on that file, and ArsClip will immediately appear in the system tray, as shown in Figure A.
The far-left icon is the ArsClip system tray icon.
Once the ArsClip icon is in the system tray, the program is up and running.
Using ArsClipThis little gem of a software utility is simple to use. Once you have copied text to the clipboard, it will appear in the ArsClip popup. Let me demonstrate. To open the ArsClip popup, press the default key combination Ctrl-Shift-Z. When you hit that combination, the popup will appear, showing the last 15 text items you copied. Figure B illustrates this default action.
The text appears in reverse chronological order (the most recent at the top of the list).
To paste your text into a document, press Ctrl-Shift-Z and then select the text you want to paste. Once you click on the text, it will appear where your cursor is in your document. Even though you have pasted text from your clipboard, that text will remain in the clipboard so that you can use it again and again.
You do not have to actually move your fingers away from the keyboard should you not want to. As you can see in the popup, each entry will also have a number associated with it. Looking back at Figure B, I can see that if I want to paste the text "Let me demonstrate" I would hit the number 2 once the ArsClip popup was showing. The text would then appear at the cursor.
If you want to flush the clipboard, you can right-click the system tray icon and select the Flush option.
ConfigurationConfiguring ArsClip is equally as simple. If you right-click the system tray icon, you will see an entry for Configure, which opens up the configuration window shown in Figure C.
There are a number of interesting configuration options with ArsClip.
The first configuration option you might want to take a look at is the Text Items and Non-Text Items under the Clipboard entry. In these two sections, you can configure text item formatting issues and enable non-text monitoring. Text item formatting includes:
- Removing whitespace from URLs
- Replacing formatted text with plain text
- Copying filenames as plain text
- Not ignoring case when detecting new items
If you enable non-text items, you will want to make sure to configure a reasonable size limit for items.
One important configuration option is how many copied items will show in the popup. Click on the Show Options item under the Popup configuration listing. There are three particular items you can adjust:
- Show -- Text items on the popup
- Show -- Non-text items on the popup
- Show -- Recently removed items in a submenu
Permanent itemsYou can also create permanent items that will always be available in ArsClip. To set up a permanent item in ArsClip, right-click the system tray icon and select Permanent Items. A new window will appear (Figure D) where you can add/edit permanent items.
As you can see, I have already created a permanent item for an SSH command.To create a new permanent item, click the New Item button in the right pane. A new window will open (Figure E) where you can set it up.
You can either manually enter the permanent item in the text area or you can click the Get from Clipboard As button, which will paste the most recently used item into the text area.
It is very important that you assign a global hotkey to the permanent item. If you do not, you will have no way of using your permanent items. To set a hotkey, click the Set button in the hotkey area to open up the Set window. When the Set window opens, enter the key combination you want to use as the hotkey. If the combination is valid, the Set Button will become available; click it to set the hotkey for the permanent item.
You can also set up keystrokes and commands with your permanent items. Say you want to have a permanent item that will Tab, enter today's date, and return. For this, do the following:
- Click New Item in the Permanent Items main window.
- Check the Use Keystrokes/Commands option.
- Click in the Text area for the permanent item.
- Click the Tab button in the Keystrokes/Commands area.
- Click the Date button in the Keystrokes/Commands area.
- Click the Enter button in the Keystrokes/Commands area.
- Create a hotkey.
- Click Save.
Now when you click the hotkey for this item you will see something like:
For anyone who does a lot of document work, an expanded clipboard in Windows is tantamount to efficiency. With ArsClip you can have a clipboard that is as powerful as you need it to be.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.