Clipboard Management with Alfred

Sometimes, it's easy to take an application for granted because it feels so ingrained in your daily workflow, you can actually forget it's separate from the OS! Alfred is certainly one of those applications. When I'm working on my Macbook Pro, I invoke the shortcut for launching applications more times than I would care to count and am yet to experience an issue with it. It's great software.

It's also easy to forget that it is so much more than an application launcher. Today, I want to write about how it functions as a clipboard manager and not just a regular one - it's a damn good one too.

You can access the Clipboard preference settings in Alfred Preferences and I'll walk you through the different settings to let you know what you are able to configure.

History

  • Clipboard History: By default, this is turned off by default so if you are going to access any clipboard history functionality, you need to enable it. Simply select the check box and decide how long you would like to have the history retained for. Options are 24 hours, 7 days, 1 month or 3 months
  • Viewer Hotkey: Select a hotkey combination to bring up the Clipboard History Viewer
  • Viewer Keyword: As above, but this time you will type a phrase into the Alfred main search box to invoke the Viewer.
  • Snippet Keyword: In the same vein as TextExpander, Alfred can utilise snippets to locate frequently used pieces of text and paste them directly to the underlying application. I'll go into more detail on this below, just note that you can set the Keyword to invoke the snippet feature here.
  • Clear Keyword: Here, you can type a phrase to clear the clipboard cache you currently have. There are different levels - you can clear the last 5 minutes, 15 minutes or all of Alfred's clipboard cache.
  • Ignore Apps: If you put your Security goggles on for a bit, you will realise that there are some applications that really shouldn't be accessed by Alfred's clipboard feature. By default, *Keychain Access, SecurityAgent, 1Password * and Wallet are ignored by Alfred.

The next window in the Preference sections for Clipboard is Snippets. As said earlier, snippets are great for quickly entering frequently used pieces of text, like your address, signatures for emails, letters, pieces of code etc. The functionality is very similar to how TextExpander from Smile software works, however as you would expect, the level of depth in Alfred's snippets is nowhere near as deep as TextExpander (fair enough, it's a far more expensive, single-focused application). If you don't use TextExpander (or one of it's competitors, like Typinator as an example) then using Snippets within Alfred will save you a lot of time.

Simply click on the + sign in the bottom right hand corner and you will be presented with a window that allows you to select a Name (this is solely for you to easily recognise the snippet you are creating), a Keyword (this is the abbreviation you will type to activate the longer-form text) and the Snippet itself (the fully expanded text).

To activate the snippets when you are in an application, simply invoke your Clipboard Manager shortcut, start typing either the Name, Keyword or Snippet and press Enter (or the and number key specific to the snippet if there are multiples) and the snippet will appear in the underlying application.

You are able to use dynamic placeholders as well as standard text. Dynamic Placeholders you can use are {date}, {time} and {clipboard}, meaning that when you leverage one of these terms within your snippet, the content will change dependant on the current date, time and clipboard content.

{date} {date:short} {date:medium} {date:long} {date:full}

{time} {time:short} {time:medium} {time:long} {time:full}

{clipboard} {clipboard:uppercase} {clipboard:lowercase} {clipboard:capitals}

Clipboard Merging

Clipboard Merging is a Powerpack feature that is very powerful. Once enabled, if you hold and double tap the C key once you have made a selection, then your text will be appended to the previously copied clipboard entry. This is really handy when you are gathering lots of text and want it all available from one shortcut, rather than having to scour through the clipboard history to get multiple entries.

You can choose whether you wish to separate appended items with a space, separate appended items with a new line or don't separate appended items.

Advanced

There are two options in the Advanced tab. The first allows you to choose whether you would like Alfred to auto-paste content to the currently active application. This is active by default.

The second option allows you to set a maximum clipping size. This would be leveraged if you find yourself copying large amounts of text on a frequent basis. If configured, Alfred will simply ignore text over a certain size to prevent your Clipboard History from oversizing.

It has to be said that the Clipboard functionality within Alfred is powerful indeed and I think it holds a very compelling reason for the purchase of the Powerpack.