Windows Clipboard History

Windows can now remember up to 25 items that you have copied into the clipboard

Clipboard And Windows LogoMost people are probably aware that if you “copy and paste” an item (such as a piece of text or an image), then the “copy” is placed in part of the computer’s memory called the “clipboard”. For many years, the clipboard would retain only the last item placed there. The clipboard would also be “emptied” of that item if the computer was re-booted.

In recent versions of Windows 10, the clipboard has become somewhat more sophisticated in that up to 25 items can be stored there. Moreover, if you “pin” an item in the clipboard then it survives a re-boot. So you could, for instance, permanently store different versions of your email signature in the clipboard for easy retrieval when needed.

This is how it works:-

First of all, you have to turn the feature on:

  • Click on the “Start” button
  • Either click on the gearwheel “settings” icon or type the word “settings” (without the quotes) and click on the “Settings” app when it is offered
  • Click on the “System” option
  • On the left hand sidebar, click on “Clipboard”
  • Slide the switch under “Clipboard history” to the right
  • Close Settings

The Windows KeyThat’s it. Each time you copy something into the clipboard it will now be remembered until either you re-boot the computer or until the total number of items in the clipboard exceeds 25. When this happens, the oldest unpinned item is deleted to make room for the newest item.

To view the items on the clipboard, tap the letter “v” while the Windows key is depressed. The Windows key is on the bottom row of the keyboard to the left of the spacebar. It usually has an icon of a Microsoft Windows flag.

Click on the three dots to reveal the menu and whether the item is pinned. When you are looking at the list of clipboard items, it is no longer possible to tell at a glance which items are pinned. Pinned items are retained after a re-boot and even when the total number of items in the clipboard reaches 25. To see whether an item is pinned, cick on the three dots to the top right of the item. If “unpin” is offered in the list of options that comes up, then the item must currently be pinned (and vice versa). Why Microsoft no longer display the map pin against each item as they do in other “pinning” contexts within Windows is beyond me. What makes this more frustrating is that they don’t even list the pinned items above the unpinned ones. This means that you have to go through every item individually to see if it is pinned.

Windows Clipboard
Click on the three dots to reveal the menu and whether the item is pinned

When you click on the three dots, you can see that the other options are to “Delete” (ie delete this one item) or “Clear all”. In fact, “Clear all” does not clear all items at all: it deletes all unpinned items. It never ceases to amaze me how sloppy these large tech companies are in their use of Engish. Why couldn’t the options read “Delete item” and “Delete all unpinned”? As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you would have to go through each item individually (clicking on the three dots) to see if it would survive if you clicked on “Clear all” or if you re-booted the machine.

Another odd thing about the clipboard history is that when you invoke it (with Windows Key and “v”) it seems to pop up in random locations on the screen. There may be some method to this, but I’ve not managed to work it out. There are no other options – not even an “X” to close the window. To close it, just “click away” (ie click the mouse somewhere else on the screen).

I’m sure this isn’t the first time I’ve said this, but you would think with all the resources at their command, that Microsoft could have offered a more polished product than this. Still, at least we do now have some kind of improvement on the single item clipboard, without having to resort to third party “add ons”.

By the way, I wrote this on a machine with Windows 10 build 19041. Earlier builds had slightly different characteristics (including the now-disappeared map pin!). You can check which build you have as follows:

  • Click on the “Start” button
  • Type “system” (without the quotes)
  • Click on the the “System information” app when it is offered
  • The build number is listed as the second item on the right hand side

I probably won’t live long enough to fathom out the complexities of Windows “version numbers”, “build numbers”, “code names”, etc, but if you’ve really got nothing better to do, you could look at this Wikipedia page on Windows 10 versions.