Clipboard History

Copy and Paste is possibly the most useful little technique in computing

Copy and paste is by no means unique to Windows. It certainly preceded Windows and, as far as I know, is offered by all operating systems. Generally speaking, I’m not really one for shortcuts, except for programs that I use a lot. In the normal run of things, I find that by the time I have accurately remembered the shortcut that I want, I have messed things up by executing the wrong shortcut. The problem is that shortcuts are so easy to forget and, in some cases,  the same key combination performs different functions in different settings. The Function 5 key (F5), for instance, will refresh the page in an internet browser, go to a specific cell or name in Excel, and Find/Replace in other programs,

The most outstanding exception has to be “Ctrl c” and “Ctrl v” for copy and paste respectively. Most situations also allow you to “right click” to access a “context menu” that also offer copy and paste options. This shortcut does not change between programs. You can pretty well guarantee that it will work across all programs.

Whether you access copy and paste via shortcuts or the context menu, the technique is then the same:

  • Highlight the item (usually a piece of text over which you have “dragged”, but it can also be one or more images on which you have clicked or dragged, a chunk of a spreadsheet, and so on)
  • Copy that item (which seems to do nothing at all at the time, but which has, in fact, copied the selection into a special part of memory called “the clipboard”)
  • Paste that item somewhere else (ie place a copy of the item somewhere else)

Clipboard HistoryThe problem with the basic “copy and paste” is that it only remembers one thing at a time. As soon as you copy a second item, it overwrites the first item in the clipboard (also known as the “copy buffer”).

However, Windows 10 does have a more sophisticated clipboard but, for some reason, it is turned off by default. To turn it on:

  • Click on Settings (eg in the Start menu)
  • Click on the “System” section
  • Click on “Clipboard” on the left sidebar
  • Slide the switch under “Clipboard History” to the right

Clipboard History Options
Click on 3 dots to open options
Now, by typing the keyboard combination of the Windows key and the letter “v”, you can access any of the last ten items that you have placed in the clipboard. Adding an eleventh item will cause the first to be forgotten. To paste an item that is in clipboard history, simply access it (with Windows Key and “v”) and tap on the desired item. Other options are available by tapping on the 3 dots to the top right of the item.

Items in clipboard history are normally lost when you re-boot your computer or switch it off, but you can “pin” items so that they remain in the history for as long as needed – even surviving reboots. This can be very useful, for instance, for email or letter sign-offs (eg “I remain, Sir, your faithful and obedient servant, Charles Pooter”).

And, finally, you can share your clipboard between Windows computers provided that both are signed into the same Microsoft account. To enable this feature, go to Settings, System, Clipboard (as above), tap on “Get Started” and then slide the switch beneath “Sync across devices” to the right (“on”) position.