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Where do copied objects vanish off to?

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Back when I was on Yahoo Answers, I saw a question that was very similar to this. Since I don’t have a photographic memory, I’m going to paraphrase it. It went something like, ‘I’ve copied many photos off the Internet, but I can only seem to paste the last item I’ve copied. How can I access the previously copied items?’ I was struck that this was a basic operation on all operating systems with a GUI, and yet I didn’t know it! Well, being the researcher that I am, I looked it up instantly.

Funny function, ‘Ctrl + C’ is. I remembered from Harry Potter when McGonagall was entering Ravenclaw’s common room, she was asked, ‘Where do vanished objects go?’, to which she replied, ‘Into non-being, which is to say, everything.’ While the arcane field of magic contradicts with the precise nature of computer science, the answer proves to be a good representation of what the clipboard is.

Simply put, the clipboard is a temporary, stack-based memory storage location, which, after you logout, will clear its contents. When you copy things from different places, our PCs seem to be able to magically access and transfer the copied data across completely different applications. But, as we now know, the copied data (copying is evoked, or called forth, by user input, which is linked to the programming interface, or the friendly screen we see, e.g. in Windows, Ctrl + C is copy because Microsoft defines it to be, not because it’s there by coincidence) is stored in a location in volatile (temporary) memory called the clipboard, which is accessed by applications through the defined user input (or Ctrl + C in Windows, Command + C in Mac).

However, a clipboard is stack-based. It means that every new item you copy in an operating system is stacked on top of the last item, replacing it. So, by default, most applications only allow one instance of a clip (the copied object) to be stored in the clipboard (the memory location).

This drawback is defined by some applications, in which software developers and programmers develop a clipboard manager, allowing for multiple instances of clips to be stored. For example, Microsoft Word allows up to 24 clips to be stored in the 2003 and 2007 versions.

To access the clip in the 2003 version, you can simply go to Edit à Office Clipboard to display the window. (If an icon that looks like Clipboard Icon is in the status bar, then it’s already on.)

To access the clipboard in the 2007 version, you can simply click on the clipboard button as seen below:

Clipboard Access

Clipboard Access

(Note: You have to click the tiny arrow beside it.)

And the clipboard will be shown:

Clipboard Image

Clipboard Image

For convenience, it’s easier to simply automatically have the clipboard pop-up every time you open Word. You can do this through clicking at the options button below, and checking the ‘Show Office Clipboard Automatically’ radio button.

In Vista, when you switch on Clipboard, a clipboard icon will appear in the status bar (at the bottom of your window). Double clicking it will open the clipboard window in the active Office application (i.e. Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, Groove, OneNote, etc., whichever you’ve got on top).

Clipboard in Status Bar

Clipboard in Status Bar

But, note that clipboard can only be used in the Office suite. You can’t use it for applications such as Photoshop or Fireworks.

(Obviously, the ‘trick’ is to open a Word window all times, so you can have the clipboard manager open to use. You paste it once, and copy and paste it again in your other application.)

Hope you found this useful! (Sorry, techies, this is for newbies like myself, but check out the programming sub-category in computer section, I’ll be doing some more articles when I get more proficient in programming! XD)

Share your thoughts on this post!! XD


One Response

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  1. Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google. I have a blog on online stock trading, I’ll bookmark your site.

    Online Stock Trading

    October 17, 2009 at 1:51 am

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