“Paste” for the Mac– Like Copy & Paste on Steroids

Updated July 13th, 2019.

You know how to copy and paste: first you copy, then you paste. The idea was revolutionary when Apple introduced it in 1984 but it had one big limitation: namely you could only paste the very last thing you copied. As soon as you copied a second thing, the first thing wasn’t available for pasting. That led to (and continues to lead to) lots of back-and-forth when you had (or have) multiple things to copy and paste.

It’s a problem, and a big time-waster, because sometimes you copy something, get distracted before pasting, and then you copy something else, wiping the first thing off the clipboard. Then you have to go back and copy the first thing again so you can paste it. It was a problem in 1984 and it’s still a problem now.

The “you-can-only-paste-what-you-last-copied” problem is solved by an app called Paste. Paste extends the concept of Copy and Paste by allowing you to save unlimited copied things and paste them anywhere, in any order, at any time. It’s powerful and elegant, and it’s quickly become a “can’t live without” thing for me. I think it’ll be the same for you.

Let’s see how it works, with an example.

Let’s say you want to copy three chunks of text from a web page, and then paste them into an email. Without Paste, it goes like this:

  1. copy the first chunk from the web page
  2. switch to your email program
  3. paste Chunk 1
  4. switch back to the web page
  5. copy the second chunk from the web page
  6. switch back to your email message
  7. paste Chunk 2
  8. switch back to the web page
  9. copy the third chunk from the web page
  10. switch back to your email message
  11. paste Chunk 3

Eleven steps! I’m tired just writing about it. With Paste, you would do it like this:

  1. copy the first chunk from the web page
  2. copy the second chunk from the web page
  3. copy the third chunk from the web page
  4. switch back to your email message
  5. paste Chunk 1
  6. paste Chunk 2
  7. paste Chunk 3

That eliminated four of the “switch” steps, and as you can quickly figure out, if we had a whole bunch of things to copy and paste, we could save even more steps. It’s really easy, and after you’ve done it this way you will wonder how you lived the old way.

The developer describes Paste this way: Paste keeps everything you’ve ever copied and lets you to use your clipboard history anytime you need it.

Download Paste on the Mac App Store
Download Paste from the App Store

You can download Paste from Apple’s Mac App Store and after that it will launch itself when the Mac starts up so it’s always available, all the time. (After installation you’ll be asked to download and install a “helper” app which extends Paste’s reach so it works across apps. Do what they suggest– install the helper app. You may also be asked to install a font– do that too.)

You get a chance to customize things when Paste runs for the first time, as shown below. Change the “Activate Paste” hotkey to something that works for you (the default is Command-Shift-V, but I like Control-P, for “Paste”). Make sure Paste runs at startup, and enable Direct Paste. Set the history capacity number to anything you’d like.

Paste's initial setup screen
Paste’s initial setup screen

You’ll see a tiny little Paste icon in the menu bar when Paste is running. Use that to access Paste’s preferences later, in case you change your mind about that hotkey. Otherwise you will probably never use this menu.

Paste's menu
Paste’s menu

So how do you use Paste? Well, the copying part is the same as it ever was– except you can copy, copy, copy and not worry about losing what you copied by copying something over it. The pasting part is what’s changed. Use your shortcut to bring up Paste, which looks like this:

Paste's screen, showing four copied items
Paste’s screen. Click for larger version.

This example shows three images and one chunk of text, each copied at different times. The text is the oldest of the four things copied and there are many more items to the right. The Twinkies picture is the most recently copied item, of the four items shown. You can scroll left and right to access those older items, or use the left- and right-arrow keys on your Mac’s keyboard.

When you see the item you want to paste, just give it a double-click. Presto, the item’s pasted, wherever your cursor was when you invoked Paste. Elegant, easy, and fast. You’ll like it, I’m sure. (You can also use Drag and Drop to place the item wherever you wish.)

Can’t tell what a picture is? Click on it once, then press the spacebar and see a larger version, using Apple’s Quick Look feature. For example:

Paste, with Quick Look preview
Paste, with Quick Look preview

You will quickly get used to NOT worrying about having to paste something right after you’ve copied it. You can copy a URL from a web page, then a picture from Photos, then some text from an email, and paste it all later. Paste takes care of everything.

You can create collections of copied items to help keep things organized. (Paste calls these collections “Pinboards.”) It’s easy to make a new pinboard– just click the large “+” at the top of Paste’s window and name it. Adding items to pinboards is easy too– bring up Paste, then control-click on the item you’re interested in, and “pin” it to a pinboard. The item stays in the main collection but can also be found in the pinboard (click on the pinboard at the top of the Paste screen).

Nice touches abound in Paste, showing a lot of thought and care by the developer. For example, by default, Paste does not store information copied from Keychain Access or 1Password, which means your passwords aren’t sitting around waiting for someone to paste them somewhere. Also, Paste uses color-coding: stuff copied from Safari is blue, stuff copied from Contacts is brown, stuff copied from Pages is purple. App icons are also shown in each item’s title, and you can see quickly whether the copied item is text, an image, or something else. You don’t need this, but it makes Paste nicer to use.

Paste, showing colors and icons
Paste, showing colors and icons

You can search within Paste by clicking on the magnifying class and typing a few words in. If you search for “image” you get just images. If you search for “text” you get just text snippets. You can also search for items copied from a particular program by searching for the program name.

Paste-- searching for images only
Searching for images in Paste

Paste will change the way you use your Mac, and change it for the better. You’ll be more efficient, and those “Aaaargh, I copied a second thing and it wiped out the first thing” episodes will be eliminated. I wish I’d have had Paste installed from Day 1– would have saved a lot of time and trouble. I sure do use it now!

Download Paste on the Mac App Store
Get Paste

Paste requires macOS 10.10 or higher. Get Paste at the Mac App Store.

Copyright 2008-2024 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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