Clips for iOS

Today Clean Shaven Apps (the same developers behind Dispatch) released Clips, a wicked useful iOS app that leverages the iOS 8 extension frameworks to give you a clipboard manager on your iPad and iPhone.

If you spend any time writing in iOS, you know how frustrating it can be collecting bits of text and links for use in whatever you are creating. The iOS clipboard only holds one entry. If you are pulling text and data from multiple sources, the process of copying and pasting gets tedious real quickly. Moreover, if you decide you want to go back and use something you clipped earlier, you’re going to have to go and copy it again. There is no way to keep a list of all your clippings and easily access them without doing something silly like opening a separate document just to hold clippings (which you still need to go back and repeatedly copy before pasting). At least that was the case until now.

Clips in Nutshell

Using Clips you can collect bits of saved text and links into the Clips application. Then you can use, modify, and paste those clips easily in other applications using the Clips Today View widget or its custom keyboard. The clippings can be used repeatedly without having to go back and recopy them. It’s not as seamless as a clipboard manager on Mac OS, but it is pretty close and exponentially better than anything we’ve had before on iOS

Copying Clips

iOS doesn’t let an app monitor your clipboard. This security motivated limitation is probably a good thing. I’m not sure I want any application to be able to see everything I copy. This limitation does, however, make getting copied bits of text into Clips slightly more tedious. 

Rather than having the ability to grab everything you copy automatically into Clips, you have to paste the information into Clips. There are a few ways to pull that off:

  1. Save in the Clips App When you open the Clips app, you are presented with a list of your previously saved clips. Additionally, if you have anything currently saved in your copy buffer, it is displayed in a red box at the top of the screen. Tap the plus sign next to the text and your copy buffer has now been sucked into the Clips list.

  2. Use the Today View Widget Clips also has a Today View widget. If you enable it and pull down the notification center with anything in your iPad or iPhone’s copy buffer, Clips again gives you the ability to tap and add the data to your Clips list.

This manual process of adding copied data to the clips library is the only significant difference between a Mac clipboard manager and Clips. On the Mac that process is automatic. With Clips on iOS, you need to do it manually. The developers make it pretty easy though and in testing the app, it has become second nature for me to pull down the widget while inside Safari (or any other app for that matter) and add to Clips. While doing it manually adds a bit more work, it also keeps your Clips library of copied text to just those bits you actually want to use, which makes it easier to find later.

Pasting Clips

Using your clippings is just as easy as copying them. From inside any application, you can pull down the Today View widget and paste with a single tap. There is also a specialized keyboard that holds your clippings if you roll that way.

If the Clips feature set stopped right there, I’d be a happy user. The ability to store and access multiple clippings is something I’ve always missed on iOS and this is exactly the kind of innovation I was hoping for when Apple announced iOS 8 extensions.

However, as I mentioned earlier, this app is designed by the same people that develop Dispatch, which is one of my favorite 3rd party email clients and one of the best apps on iOS at sharing things. Of course they took this further.

When pasting a clipping with Clips, you have options. If it is a clipping from a website you can include the text, the URL, or both. You can customize these copy templates from inside the app but the built-in ones should suffice for most.

It also includes a “More” button. That takes you into the Clips application. From there you have additional tools to make the text all caps or all lowercase. You can also access the rest of your installed iOS 8 extensions to share the text to a text message, email, Twitter or any of the other extension enabled applications on your device. For a no-brainer $2 in-app upgrade, you keep an unlimited number of clippings and sync them across all of your iOS devices.

I’ve been using the Clips beta for a few weeks and, as someone who spends a lot of time writing on my iPad, find the application liberating. It has spoiled me and now I can’t imagine not having it on my iOS device. You can learn more (and watch a video) at the website and get the app in the App Store.