Clipboard History On Mac

The clipboard has been an integral tool of any operating system, even predating visual interfaces in some form, even if only storing strings of plain text back then.

On a modern-day Mac, the clipboard is a powerful tool with many uses that span storing text strings, images, slices of images, or entire files. However, just like the Windows clipboard, the Mac clipboard has one significant limitation, which stems from the way it works.

The clipboard only stores and keeps in itself one item at a time. If you copy a sentence to the clipboard, then copy a slice of an image to the clipboard right after, the image will replace the string of text you just copied a minute earlier.

You can see the current contents of your Mac clipboard by opening Finder, then clicking the Edit menu, and finally selecting "Show Clipboard". This will show you a window that contains the contents of the clipboard at this specific moment.

However, your Mac does not have built-in functionality to display the previous contents of the clipboard. There are third-party applications that aim to provide this sort of functionality, but it is not a feature that a regular user can access on their Mac without significant effort.

The nature of the clipboard largely dictates why this is the case. Imagine you copy a very large image to your clipboard. This image will take up system memory. If you keep doing this with a number of other images, then with large chunks of text, then with entire audio files, all this data will need to be stored in memory, eventually leading to significant system slowdown.

November 18, 2021