Two free programs enhance Windows' clipboard

M8 Free Clipboard and PasteCopy.NET make it easy to save and reuse multiple text entries and images.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
4 min read

You would think a 20-year-old operating system would let you copy and paste more than one item at a time. While the clipboards in Office 2003 and 2007 can store up to 24 text snippets and graphics for later reuse, no such multisave option is built into Windows itself.

Thank goodness software developers have stepped into the breach by providing free programs that extend the Windows clipboard, allowing you to copy dozens of items and paste any of them with a single click or keyboard shortcut.

Maximize your clipboard options in Office 2003 and 2007
As soon as you copy two items in any Office application, the Clipboard pane opens on the right side of the screen. You can also open the Office Clipboard by choosing the Clipboard option in the Home group of Office 2007's ribbon and by clicking Edit > Office Clipboard in Office 2003 apps.

Another way to open the Clipboard in most Office apps is by selecting an item and pressing Ctrl+C twice. This is one of the five settings available by clicking the Options button at the bottom of the Clipboard.

Microsoft Office Clipboard Options dialog
The Options button in the Office Clipboard pane provides five settings for viewing the Clipboard. Microsoft

The Office Clipboard stores up to 24 separate items. Once that limit is reached, you'll need to delete one or more Clipboard entries to save a new one, or click the Clear All button at the top of the pane to empty the Clipboard entirely.

For an overview of the Clipboard options in Office 2007, see the article Copy and paste multiple items by using the Office Clipboard on the Microsoft Office Online site. The equivalent information for Office 2003 is presented in Office Clipboard on the same site.

Bringing multiple copy and paste to Windows
If you're like me, you find yourself spending much less of your workday in Office and much more of it in a browser and other non-Office applications. For instance, I frequently have to place a link to a Web page into a document or blog post. This requires that I copy and paste both the page's URL and the title or other descriptive text from the page I'm linking to.

Since the Windows clipboard is a one-and-done affair, adding such a link requires two trips to the page in question. After putting up with these multiple round trips for years, I decided to look for a clipboard enhancer. I found two freebies that provide more copy-and-paste options than you can shake a mouse at.

Simple, straightforward approach to multiple copy and paste
M8 Software's M8 Free Clipboard places an icon in the taskbar's Notification Area near the clock. Click it to view a list of your clipboard entries. You can also assign a key combination in the program's Options dialog to open the clipboard list via the keyboard.

M8 Free Clipboard main window
The M8 Free Clipboard utility shows your saved items in a window that floats atop your other open windows. M8 Software

Items are added to the list automatically as you copy. By default, a tone sounds each time an item is added, but you can turn the sound cue off by clicking Tools > Options. Hovering the mouse over an item shows it in a pop-up preview window.

To paste an item in the list, simply place the cursor where you want the saved text or graphic to appear and select the item in the M8 Free Clipboard window. You can also paste them by pressing the keyboard combination you selected to open the program and then the letter that appears to the left of the item. You activate these options via the program's Options dialog.

When you shut down Windows, the contents of the clipboard are erased. But with M8 Free Clipboard, your saved items are waiting for you when you restart Windows. You get even more options by upgrading to M8 Software's $20 Spartan Multi Clipboard, which lets you save your clips in libraries and comes in portable and U3 versions.

The .NET approach to extending the clipboard
There are more similarities than differences between M8 Free Clipboard and SundryTools' free PasteCopy.NET utility, but the differences are noteworthy. First, as the program's name implies, PasteCopy.NET relies on the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0. Also, you open PasteCopy.NET by clicking the desktop shortcut, Start menu item, or icon the program's installer places in the Quick Launch toolbar. You're given the choice of shortcuts to add during the installation

PasteCopy.NET also distinguishes itself by supporting several different languages, which you select as part of the program's installation. Like M8 Free Clipboard, PasteCopy.NET saves dozens of text entries and images, but unlike M8 Free Clipboard, you add an item by selecting it in the list, placing the cursor where you want it to appear in the target document, and pressing Ctrl+V or choosing Edit > Paste. I prefer M8 Free Clipboard's automatic placement of the saved item when you select it in the program's window.

I also prefer M8 Free Clipboard's preview window to the smaller, scrunched preview that appears at the bottom of PasteCopy.NET's main window when you select an item. PasteCopy.NET's Settings dialog has a Preview tab that lists options for customizing the size of the preview, but when I tested the program, the preview area wouldn't stay resized even after I enlarged the window manually.

SundryTools' PasteCopy.NET clipboard enhancer
SundryTools' PasteCopy.NET shows your saved items in its main window, but image previews are difficult to see at the bottom of the window. SundryTools

PasteCopy.NET does offer some features not available in M8 Free Clipboard, including the ability to convert .rtf files to text and .html files to either text or .rtf. You can also print your list of saved items, save it as an .rtf file, and create categories of saved items. Unfortunately, PasteCopy.NET has an unfinished feel. For example, some areas of the program's window went blank after I resized the preview window. And as I noted above, the preview reverted to its original squeezed size as soon as I returned the cursor to the main window.

While both M8 Free Clipboard and PasteCopy.NET are great improvements over the meager clipboard built into Windows, I prefer M8 Free Clipboard for its simplicity and unobtrusiveness.