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Collective: Attractive, lightweight clipboard utility gets the details right

Dan Moren | April 25, 2014
The clipboard has been a staple of the Mac's operating system since the earliest days. But in that time, it hasn't changed much: It still holds only one item, for example, so you can't see things that you previously copied or pasted. Because of this limitation, developers have offered scores of utilities for saving and accessing multiple clipboards. I've found myself enamored of a recent entry in the category, Generation Loss Interactive's $2 Collective (Mac App Store link), thanks to its simple nature, robust feature set, and pleasing interface.

The clipboard has been a staple of the Mac's operating system since the earliest days. But in that time, it hasn't changed much: It still holds only one item, for example, so you can't see things that you previously copied or pasted. Because of this limitation, developers have offered scores of utilities for saving and accessing multiple clipboards. I've found myself enamored of a recent entry in the category, Generation Loss Interactive's $2 Collective (Mac App Store link), thanks to its simple nature, robust feature set, and pleasing interface.

As with most clipboard utilities, you summon Collective with a user-definable keyboard shortcut; you can also click Collective's systemwide menu. The app's interface is attractive, but straightforward: The window that appears provides you with previews of all the items in your clipboard history, including images, displaying next to each clipping the icon of the application it came from. Click (or double-click, depending on your settings) any item to transfer it to the main clipboard. (If you're a keyboard maven, as I am, you can also use the Up and Down arrow keys to select the desired clipping and then press Return to transfer it to the clipboard.)

Highlighting a clipping displays, in Collective's status bar (at the bottom of the window), information about that item: If it's text, the info includes the number of lines and characters; for images the info handily includes the image's dimensions. Pressing Spacebar gives you a Quick Look preview of the item. I also appreciate that Collective applies a little green badge to the item you've most recently transferred to the clipboard.

Keeping as large a history of clippings as Collective does — the default is your 500 most-recent clipboard contents — can be a bit much at times, but the app gives you a few tools for making your history more manageable. For example, you can mark individual items as favorites by clicking the star icon next to each (or pressing the M key when an item is selected); to quickly display only your favorites, just click the star button at the top of the window (or press F). You'll notice that when you mark something as a favorite, a number shows up next to it — up to the ninth clipping; as you might surmise, you can paste these favorites simply by hitting each's equivalent number key.

You can also filter the list of clippings in a couple ways. First, if you choose an application from the pop-up menu at the top of the window, Collective shows only clippings copied within that app. Second, you can enter text in the search field to display only clippings that contain that text string.

 

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