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PopClip and Unclutter: Big Utility Comes in Small Packages

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 29, 2013 5:00 AM PT

PopClip and Unclutter: Big Utility Comes in Small Packages

PopClip icon PopClip, an app from Pilotmoon Software, is available at the Mac App Store for US$4.99.

Size isn't always a measure of an app's usefulness. Sometimes you can get more utility from a small app than you'd get from larger one that you use only occasionally. Two such useful programs are PopClip and Unclutter.

While many aspects of editing documents in iOS are awkward, one that's nifty is the way a context box pops up when you select text on the screen of an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. PopClip duplicates that function in OS X 10.6.6 or later.

After installing PopClip, whenever you select text on your Mac's display, a pop-up menu will appear with options like cut, copy and paste. The options available to you from that menu depend on the context of your selection.

Context Sensitive

For example, if you select text in an email message displayed in the preview pane of Apple Mail, you'll see options to copy the text or use the text for a Web search. Either option can be chosen by clicking on it. PopClip knows you can't use certain commands in that view -- cut or paste, for example -- so it doesn't display them.

If you're composing a letter and select a phrase, you'll get more options -- like cut, copy and paste. If you select a word, you'll also have a dictionary option. It accesses Apple's built-in dictionary and lets you see information about the word, such as definitions, synonyms and antonyms, as well as a Wikipedia entry.

Selecting a link in a document, on the other hand, will display a link option that you can click on to go directly to that location on the Web.

Power Extension

PopClip includes eight actions that may appear in its pop-up menus. However, like a Web browser, those actions can be expanded through the use of extensions.

There are more text-editing actions, such as paste text and press enter, which can be useful for filling in Web forms. You can also append text to text already in the clipboard, and paste text from the clipboard with all formatting stripped from it.

Text transformation extensions are available. You can capitalize every word in a phrase, for example, or "shout" a word by making all of its letters upper case.

Another extension permits you to perform math functions on selected text. So if you select 1+2, 3 will appear in the text -- or if you want the whole calculation to appear in your text, you can select something like 28/7=, and 28/7=4 will be displayed.

Setting Preferences

Need a selection translated into another language? There's an extension for that. It will take your selected text to a translation site like Google Translate or Translate Tab.

Other extensions perform a variety of tasks: searching Amazon; pasting text into Evernote; creating reminders or to-dos in applications like Reminders and Things; and calling a phone number from Skype.

PopClip can be customized through its preference menu. It lets you choose to launch the program when you login to your computer, for example. You can choose to display an icon for the app on the OS X menu bar.

The menu bar also gives you control over what menu actions you want activated and whether to turn PopClip off or on. You can also block the app from working inside certain programs on your computer.

Unclutter Your Desktop

Unclutter icon Unclutter, an app from Software Ambience, is available at the Mac App Store for US$2.99.


While PopClip can help you cut down your keystrokes during the day, Unclutter can keep you from losing your mind trying to rifle through the mess on a chaotic desktop.

The program, which works in OS X 10.7 or higher, gives you a place to instantly access files and notes.

After installing the app, it remains out of sight under the OS X menu bar until you need to use it. By default, you display the program by moving your cursor to the top of your screen, then scrolling down.

If that method for displaying the app doesn't strike your fancy, you can replace scrolling with holding down the command, shift or option key; waiting a short period of time; or choosing a key combination to make the app appear.

Cleaner Desktop

Unclutter has three components. There's a clipboard bin, a file bin and a notes bin.

When you copy something to the system clipboard, it's also sent to Unclutter's clipboard. If you have PopClip installed, you'll be able to perform actions -- cut, copy, link, Web search, and so forth -- as you would on text in any other application.

Since the clipboard function only displays the latest item in the system clipboard, its usefulness is limited. It would have much more utility if it stored more than one item sent to the clipboard.

In the heat of creativity, we can often end up creating files haphazardly. That can create a messy desktop. With Unclutter, you can keep your desktop clean by dragging temporary files into the app's file bin.

The notes bin allows you to keep notes on the fly without having to open a text program.

PopClip and Unclutter are small, simple apps, but they can have a big impact on your productivity.

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.

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