2013-09-05

Clipboard manager

If anything, clipboard managers are among the most underestimated and neglected tools these days.

The problem with these is not that they are useless. Actually they serve a great deal of very cool features. Just nobody knows.

There are multiple different clipboard managers available and most of them have more or less comparable functionality. I decided to give xfce4-clipman a try, since I'm a great fan of Xfce. What did I get?
  • paste anything I copied earlier (the length of history is adjustable), available at hand upon pressing keyboard combination; the menu looks somewhat like this:

  • synchronization between primary and secondary clipboards (Ctrl-C and mouse-select, Ctrl-V and middle mouse button work on same content)
  • actions available immediately after selecting the text.
While first two elements are not that important and everyone could live without them, the last one is something absolutely worth trying. What it does is: once you select text to copy, the text is matched against a regular expression, and, if a match is found, a popup menu with possible actions is presented to the user.

Imagine you work with buganizer and code review tools, for example. In your case, people oftentimes refer to these as: Bug:12345 and Change:67890. What you do then is open the web browser, navigate to the appropriate tool and paste the number in the search field. That takes time and discourages you from looking into the change or bug almost instantly.

Now imagine you could simply select (highlight) the text with your mouse and with one more click simply open the bug or change.

Here's what it'd look like:


Clicking on the Open Bug option will open a new browser tab that will get you directly to Ubuntu's bug 12345. Here's what you need to do to get things rolling:

  • Install the xfce4-clipman tool. It comes with xfce4-goodies package:

    sudo apt-get install xfce4-clipman
  • Attach the Clipman to any of your panels: right-click on panel and select Add New Items:


  • Open Clipman's properties and navigate to actions:

  • Click the plus sign and create new element. There will be some elements already provided for you to see how that works anyway. Now fill the new element like this:
    • Provide a name for your pattern (in my example it's going to be Ubuntu Bug)
    • Provide a regular expression pattern that will trigger the match. you can use playground if you need by clicking the pen icon next to the pattern field
    • Create a custom command: Open Bug and
    • provide Command to be executed as:

      google-chrome "https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/isdnutils/+bug/\1" --new-tab



  • Click OK.
Now, the second you select anything that matches the pattern, say: Bug:12345, a new context menu will immediately pop up suggesting, that you may want to open the Ubuntu Bug number 12345. Try it yourself!

The Regular Expression editor comes with a playground window, where you can try how your regular expression works in action. To open it, simply click the pen icon next to the pattern field. You will be provided with a new window, where you'll see the regular expression itself and a field to paste examples for matching:



Good luck!