What is a clipboard?

Maybe you don’t even know what is buffer, but you’ve probably already used it several times while using a computer or mobile phone. The feature is essential for operating systems and can even help recover lost data. Below, find out what it actually is and where that area is located, and learn how to use its resources, both on a mobile phone and on a computer.


Photo: Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash / Tecnoblog

Clipboard is a feature present in mobile and computer operating systems, which allows the user to copy, cut and paste content between different documents or applications.

The ability to store data in small amounts (such as document snippets, links, and images), is where these contents are stored as they are transferred.

To make it even clearer, imagine that you need to pass text from a web page to a document on your computer. By copying it, you have done nothing more than save it to your computer’s clipboard, until it is pasted into the destination location.

It is also worth mentioning that the clipboard and the history of its contents can be viewed, which can be very useful for a user who needs to recover lost data.

a person on a computer

a person on a computer

Photo: Christine Hume/Unsplash/Tecnoblog

In the early days of computing, the clipboard could only store data in plain text, and was useful only for the basic functions of moving or copying words. Today, however, it can store metadata in multiple formats, as well as recognize links and save color, image, spreadsheet, and database attributes.

Is there a way to see the entire buffer?

Even as a “suspended” resource, the user can access the buffer (originally or not), even allowing visualization of its history. The amount of stored records, however, varies depending on the operating system in question. While some of them record only the last copied or cut content, others can store much more data.

How to view your computer’s clipboard

In Windows 10 or 11, press the “Windows + V” key to see the clipboard. Doing so will bring up a window with your entire history.

If the display of your historical items is not enabled, you can do so by tapping “Enable”. From then on, every time you open a window, you’ll see the last content you copied or cut while using your computer.

Windows Clipboard

Windows Clipboard

Photo: Playback / Windows / Tecnoblog

On a Mac, the commands are slightly different. Press Finder and go to the menu bar. Find the “Edit” option, click on it, and then select the “Show Clipboard” button. Okay, now all your history is visible.

Keep in mind, though, that unlike Windows, macOS only records the last copied item, so you won’t have much to look at.

Despite the bad news, it’s worth remembering that Apple computers have an advantage over Windows because they have a universal buffer. This means that any content copied or cut on PCs can be pasted to any other device connected to the same iCloud account.

There are minimum specifications between devices that can perform this transfer, but if you have a Mac and an iPhone that match this list and are connected to the same iCloud account, just leave Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on both devices turned on and your Handoff activated. Once you’ve done this, you can copy and paste the content from one to the other as many times as you like.

How to view mobile clipboard

Mobile phones generally do not allow native access to the device buffer. At least not in the same way we do with computers.

There are, of course, indirect ways to find the last copied content, for example when we open the iPhone Notes or the default Android messaging app and in a new document we double-tap the screen and select the “Paste” option. In this way, any last copied content that is compatible with the application format (in this case textual content) can be seen.

However, if you want to have more control over your history, the only way out is to download a clipboard manager app. With it, you can view, organize and even delete the content in question.

It is one of the most famous Clipboard manageronly available for Android, but you can find options that are compatible with iPhone.

Does the buffer have a limit?

As far as is known, no.

At least Microsoft has already stated that their system does not have a predefined maximum size of its buffer. Apple, despite categorically not claiming the same, makes no indication in its manual that there is a specific size for its use.

With Android devices, the situation is a bit more variable, and it is better to look for more detailed information in the user manual.

What is a clipboard?

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