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Hands On: Clips 1.2 (iOS)
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Jun 5, 2015, 09:46 PM
It's only a small point update from version 1.1.3 which we reviewed back in March, but the new Clips 1.2 adds a redesign and enough improvements that we reckon it moves from "very good" to "a must have." Well, nearly. There are still things we wish it could do, but every one of them is a specific limitation imposed by Apple's iOS.

What Clips does, at heart, remains the same: it is a clipboard manager. After decades of being able to copy something and then paste that somewhere else, we are now used to being able to copy many, many things and paste them in any order, anywhere we go.

Or at least we are becoming used to that on Macs. If you haven't done this yet, you'll feel like it's an extra step to learn, and more software to install, but it becomes second nature. You'll resent using a Mac that doesn't have it.

We have a regular thing, for instance, where we might write out one long piece, but then have to paste different bits into a kind of online form. Now using Alfred 2 on our Macs, we select and copy each bit one after another, and then we paste them into the form bit by bit. It saves us going back and forth to the original document, but it also means we never miss out a section by mistake.

You can't have exactly the same fluid, second-nature experience doing this on iOS, but Clips is close. If you've gotten used to clipboard managers, you want one on iOS, and so far it looks like Clips is your best bet.

With Clips, you can select and copy any piece of text on your iOS device and then save it. We tend to use the Notification Center widget for this: select and copy the piece, then swipe down and tap on the Clips section to lodge that clipped text safely away. Then swipe up to return to what you were doing, and copy the next thing. Alternatively, many applications allow you to use the Clips sharing extension: select your text, tap on the Sharing button, choose Clips, and you're done.

You can see how you'd quickly build up a pile of clippings like this. In the free version, you are limited to the last five, in the paid-for version you have no limits. We stayed on the free one for ages, because it did all we needed, but we moved up partly because we needed more, partly because we wanted to pay the developer something for making such a useful tool. It helps that the paid upgrade is only a $2 in-app purchase.

Try the free version less because it's free, and more because that lets you see how Clips works and find out whether you can fit it into what you do every day.

If you've done that before, do it again now, because version 1.2 has added many improvements. The headline one is that you can now view your clips on your Apple Watch. You have to have the paid version to do that, and you also have to have a reason why you'd do it that, which we simply can't fathom. Perhaps if you have some text you need to refer to later, you could save it in Clips and read it on your Watch.

Just be sure you don't copy and paste anything else in the meantime. Still, the feature is there, and it does work on Apple Watch.

What we like more is how slick the copying and especially pasting has become. Curiously, we spent so little time in the Clips app itself that we've forgotten how it used to look. We would just work constantly in Notification Center. Yet now the redesign is sufficiently useful and pleasing that we're tending to spend more time in the app itself.

When you're in the app, you do see all of your clipped text instead of just the last few that Notification Center displays, but you can also do more with them. Change a text from all caps to all lowercase before copying it out to paste somewhere else, for instance.

It also has a Drafts-like way of handling what you actually copy when you select something: if you're grabbing text from a website, you can also have Clips automatically grab the site's URL, and include that in what you can then paste somewhere else.

Pasting has been improved too: as well as going through the app or Notification Center, you can also switch to a Clips keyboard that lists all your latest clippings. Tap on one, and in it goes to your current email or document. Clips had the keyboard before, but we somehow found it cumbersome or maybe just a bit slow; whatever the reason, we took it off our list of keyboards. We've put it back now, and it feels quicker.

Last time, we enthused about Clips because it did these things we find so useful. It's now better at them, but we're -- quite unfairly --more bothered by its limitations. Select, swipe, save or select, change to app, save and then swipe, copy, paste or change keyboard and tap all seem quite laborious. They're a lot less laborious than copying and pasting without Clips; they're an awful lot less laborious.

So we are still enthused, and with the new redesign and improvements we recommend Clips even more. We just hope that future iOS releases either let Clips do more, or build this kind of functionality into the operating system.

Clips 1.2 requires iOS 8.0 or higher, and is free in the App Store, but has a $2 in-app purchase that we'd recommend too.

Who is Clips 1.2 for:
Try it and you'll see. It takes getting used to, but once muscle memory kicks in and you're copying and pasting via Clips all the time, you'll wonder how you did without it.

Who is Clips 1.2 not for:
Don't copy and paste much on iOS? Then this isn't a big boon for you.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
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