PopClip, a smart clipboard aide

I'm not a huge fan of applications that seemingly make your life easier. In many cases, they only take up memory space and make your life more miserable as a result of your Mac choking on them. But there are exceptions. PopClip is one of those.

It took me well over a year after I'd reviewed Typinator before I finally decided to really try using it in my daily work. Today I rely on Typinator for saving (much) time. I expect PopClip to have the same effect. PopClip is a little app that lives in your menubar. It is a deceivable app in its simplicity: when installed all it does, is it will give you an action bar that appears whenever you select text, a link, an email address, anything that you can work with, except images and video clips.

The basic install of PopClip allows you to cut, copy and paste, search for the term you selected, open the link or use the email address you selected, reveal in the Finder, open the Dictionary, and correct your spelling. All without having to lift one finger from your Magic Trackpad, mouse or whatever pointing device you're using. It will work with the keyboard too, but that's not as smooth as using it with a mouse — you'll have to install an extra script, and use keyboard keys to navigate.

This basic install of PopClip is just and only an improvement on what OS X lets you do with keystrokes as well, although it saves you a few clicks and Return-key hits as well. But the main and major reason why you'll want to buy and install PopClip is that it comes with a long list of extensions — all for free!

PopClip clipboard enhancer

It appears a good many developers liked the idea of PopClip so much, they wrote an extension for it. That is the case with my favourite freeform database, DEVONthink Office Pro, but also with Pocket, Evernote, Omnifocus, TextSoap, etc, etc.

Once you install an extension you like — a very simple process that involves double-clicking the downloaded extension file — the PopClip action bar is populated with the extension's icon. From that point on, you can select text and have it sent over to Pocket, for example, or to Evernote, or have a web page sent to DEVONthink and turned into a web archive.

You might want to dial a phone number with Skype or Dialectic immediately from within a web page, or any other document. With the PopClip extension for Skype installed, Skype will start up and should ask you if you're OK with dialling that number. In my tests, Skype started up, but it took another PopClip round to actually make it understand that I was trying to call a number. We all know Skype is a stupid app, so I won't hold it against PopClip that it didn't work that well.

Especially not so, since sending notes and content to Evernote, DEVONthink and everything else worked like a charm.

PopClip can be customised as well. For example, if you want to switch search engines from the default Google engine to let's say Yahoo!, then all you need to do, is launch a browser like Firefox, search for something — it doesn't matter what — replace the search term by three asterisks and select this URL. PopClip's action bar will have changed to include a "Set Search Engine" option. Click that and next time you search, you'll be using Yahoo! instead of Google. Holding shift while setting a new search engine, will give you two engines to choose from.

The same sort of trick can change dictionaries as well.

Holding down Shift can also be used if you want to not open links but copy them as a list.

In fact, that's what makes PopClip extra appealing: there's not much to remember. Holding down the Shift key will change its behaviour, but the developer has (so far) resisted pumping up the volume and turning PopClip in a mess of modifier key behaviours that you cannot possibly remember unless you use them all in your daily routine.

PopClip is ridiculously cheap at approx. €3.86 and I warmly recommend it.

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