Clipboard history on Mac: how to view and manage it

When working on a Mac, the keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste are Command/⌘+C to copy, then Command/⌘+V to paste. Everything you copy and paste goes to the same place — the clipboard. 

However, there is a drawback to this remarkable time-saving tool: macOS only comes with one built-in clipboard, and whatever you want to paste is limited to the last thing you copied. So, if you copy something, then forget to paste it, and copy something else, then paste that, you need to go back to the thing you were originally trying to copy and paste to complete that task. It can be a pain and sometimes costs as much time as you were hoping to save due to these limitations of the clipboard. 

Thankfully, there are ways around these limitations, and you can view and access the clipboard history on a Mac. In this article, we cover the most effective ways and options for viewing and managing the clipboard history on a Mac.

What is clipboard on Mac? 

The clipboard is one of those programs that run in the background, and often, this is something you wouldn’t need to give a second thought. It is a basic app, and so it takes up almost no processing power or space. 

If you want to view the clipboard, you can locate it through the Finder menu in the top toolbar. Find and select Show Clipboard from the Edit menu to see the last item you copied. It will only show the most recent item. Once you copy something else, the previous item disappears.

Universal Clipboard

Introduced in macOS Sierra and iOS 10, Apple devices now come with a Universal Clipboard, which means you can copy on one device and paste on another. Provided that devices are logged into the same iCloud account and connected to the same Wi-Fi network with Bluetooth switched on — and not too far apart — this is another fantastic time-saver from Apple. 

Not only does Apple think about the convenience of its users; a lot of developers are working on creating better tools for Mac users. MacPaw is one such developer, and CleanMyMac X is one such tool. It is designed to clean and optimize your Mac. The app is notarized by Apple, so there is no better and safer cleaner for your Mac. So, if you’re eager to speed up your Mac, this is a tool for you.

Hidden secondary clipboard

It should also be noted that Apple has a hidden secondary keyboard. It is a well-kept, practically an insider secret. Select whatever you want to cut — not copy — and press Control + K to cut the text, an image, or a document. To paste it in its new location, press Control + Y. Because this cuts an item, it won’t remove whatever you copied most recently from the main keyboard. 

How to view and manage clipboard history on a Mac? 

Your Mac clipboard is not like the human short-term memory. It is transient and tends to only hold onto one thing at a time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, it can only reveal the latest thing you copied. You can view clipboard through the Finder menu. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open the Finder. 
  2. Click Edit in the menu bar.
  3. Select Show Clipboard.

In the window that opens, you will see the latest thing you copied. Here’s what clipboard looks like: 

If you expected to find everything you copied on your clipboard, you could be disappointed. Clipboard only saves the last item you copied. This is a massive drawback of the macOS clipboard, and there is no way to view the clipboard history without applying other special tools. 

Developers have been busy coming up with solutions that work with macOS to solve this problem. In order to give people more control over the Mac clipboard, they even create apps that provide you with more than one clipboard on a Mac. 

Tools to view clipboard history on Mac 

Because the macOS clipboard is limited to the most recent item copied, gaining the advantage of more functionality means using a third-party app, such as a clipboard manager, to effectively create a secondary clipboard within your Mac. 

Paste is one of such apps. It keeps everything you copy so can you access it later. Rocket Typist is a similar tool, but its main purpose is to save the phrases you use the most. Another app called Unclutter is great at keeping your copied info organized — it saves everything you drag and drop and allows you to create notes. 

How to fix clipboard if it isn’t working?

If copy and paste aren’t working on Mac, Activity Monitor may help you:

  1. Go to Applications and choose Utilities.
  2. Open Activity Monitor.
  3. Type pboard in the search bar and hit Enter. 

  4. Click the X in the toolbar to quit the process.

If quitting the clipboard didn’t help, then the issue may be with your keyboard. To fix it, you need to highlight some text by either double-clicking it and choosing Copy or selecting the Copy option from the Edit menu. Then, choose Paste from the Edit menu. If it works, your keyboard, not clipboard, is the one to blame. In this case, restarting your Mac may help you fix the issue. Go to the Apple menu and choose Restart. 

Although clipboard is a simple background program, something can always go wrong. So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where clipboard isn’t working, which will impact apps that rely on that functionality to make your life easier, there is an app that can solve this and many other problems. 

One way to clean up a Mac and improve its performance is to use one of the most powerful and popular Mac cleaner apps on the market — CleanMyMac X

CleanMyMac X is a powerful, easy-to-use, and versatile Mac performance improvement tool. To use this app to clean your Mac, including clearing caches and browser history, follow these steps:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X.
  2. Run a Smart Scan.
  3. Click Review Details to check the junk CleanMyMac X detected. Usually, these are user cache files, system logs, etc.
  4. CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete
  5. Click Run to clear and speed up your Mac. Delete with confidence, knowing your Mac will run smoother and faster with files that aren’t needed finally tidied up. 

CleanMyMac X knows what can be removed and what should stay on your Mac, so it excludes crucial system files from the search. 

Now, you know that you can quickly view clipboard history on your Mac through the Finder menu. Apple clipboard isn’t perfect, though, so you can’t check out everything that you’ve copied. Thankfully, some special apps can help you with that. Install any of the apps I recommended above to keep all your copied items at hand. 

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.