Whip Your Clipboard into Shape with ShapeShifter

The clipboard might be the most useful thing we take for granted in our computers. The ability to take something in one program and insert it somewhere else using the same process whether dealing with text, an image, or a file makes editing and creating so much easier. The common area means that you don’t have to worry about if two programs know how to talk to each other, they both only have to know how to talk to the clipboard.

The biggest drawback to the traditional Windows clipboard is that it can only hold one item at a time. When you cut or copy an item into the clipboard, anything already there is now lost. Much of the time this works well. If you’re only copying or pasting a line of text from one document to another document or another place in the same document, you only need to hold one item. Otherwise, it tends to become a problem. Surely, there must be a way around this!

It becomes a problem when you need to copy several items from one place to another repeatedly. That’s where clipboard managers are useful. These applications provide additional features to extend the clipboard. Most can track the last several items that have been placed into the clipboard or multiple buffers providing access to several things at once.

Others remember the items in the clipboard even after a logout or restart. Some are complex, but for most users a simple manager that let’s you access a few more items in the clipboard will suffice. Shapeshifter from Flamefusion provides just such an simple clipboard manager. How well does it succeed? Let’s see.

What is ShapeShifter?

Shapeshifter is a freeware clipboard manager that extends the Windows clipboard so you can access the last several items placed into it. It is a basic clipboard manager that doesn’t offer many features, but uses few resources on your computer.

It remembers items as you add them to the clipboard and makes them available for later use. It does not permanently store the clipboard data so the contents of the clipboard are still lost when you log out or restart your computer.

You can download the installer from the FlameFusion web site. Shapeshifter runs under Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 in either 32 or 64 bit versions. The installer automatically identifies the version and type of Windows system you are running and installs the appropriate version.

Using ShapeShifter

Setup Wizard

ShapeShifter supports modes for keyboard or mouse focused users along with a mode for those using both.

Once the ShapeShifter install completes, you are presented with a one page setup wizard to choose between three modes of operation. Integrated mode runs quietly in the system tray and only shows the program window if you hold down the traditional Ctrl-V key used to paste.

External mode places each available clipboard item into a stacked window that appears in the Windows 7 task bar which shows the recent clipboard items. You can also run ShapeShifter in mixed mode which combines the two methods.

Once ShapeShifter is running pressing Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X or clicking copy from a popup menu places items into the clipboard as normal. Now though the last item isn’t lost as ShapeShifter remembers older items as you place new things into the clipboard. The app understands most Windows clipboard formats including custom formats. Just about anything you can place into the clipboard should work with Shapeshifter.

Paste Window in Integrated Mode

In integrated or mixed mode pressing Ctrl-V shows the last few items places into the clipboard.

In integrated or mixed mode you activate holding down Ctrl-V instead of just pressing it.

After a moment, the ShapeShifter windows appears showing the last several items placed into the clipboard. You use the arrow keys to select which item in the clipboard you’d like pasted and when you release Ctrl-V the selected item will be pasted into your current application.

External Mode

External Mode is designed for mouse focused users and shows clipboard contents as windows in the taskbar.

The latest update added external mode for more mouse focused users. Instead of holding down Ctrl-V, you instead click the menu of the clipboard item you would like to paste. Then either Ctrl-V or the paste option from a popup menu pastes that item into your application. Your preference between the modes will really depend on if your first thought when pasting is to press a key or click the mouse.

ShapeShifter offers few settings or options in keeping with the application’s simple approach. You can choose the color to highlight items selected to paste from the clipboard. You can also set the program to start automatically and change the mode. There is no way to set how many items to keep in the clipboard.

What’s the Verdict?

Overall ShapeShifter works well when it works. And that’s the greatest drawback to the application. In spite of a version number now at 5, the program still feels a bit rough at the edges. I encountered bugs when using the program. The initial version I tested contained a bug that after copying data using Ctrl-C Windows would see the Ctrl key as pressed even when it was not.

This could be fixed by tapping the key a few times, but was quite annoying to occasionally copy data and have odd behavior until I figured out what had happened. Version 5 which just came out fixed this bug, but the auto update feature didn’t work for me in spite of it telling me the new version was available.

If you have an existing clipboard manager that you like, I don’t see anything here that will probably move you from it to ShapeShifter. It is very lightweight and low on resource use which makes it good choice for smaller footprint computers. If you’re looking for a clipboard manager with a lot of features and flexibility, then Shapeshifter will disappoint.

ShapeShifter is in active development with two updates release in the last couple of weeks and bugs do seem to be fixed fairly quickly. Overall the program shows a lot of promise and if the minor bugs can be worked out it would provide a good option for someone looking for a basic clipboard manager.


Summary

ShapeShifter provides a lightweight, but useful clipboard manager. It still shows some rough edges and bugs, but is a viable option for users looking for a simple clipboard manager.

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