AltStore’s Clip Is the Best Clipboard Manager on iOS Yet

Last month, AltStore was finally made available on iOS for everyone living in the European Union. Not only does the first alternative app marketplace on iOS ship with the great Delta videogame emulator, but it also lets you install Clip, a clipboard manager unlike any other on the iPhone.

The app’s uniqueness resides in the sole fact that it’s the first ever clipboard manager on the iPhone that can actually run in the background and continuously monitor your clipboard, regardless of the app you’re in. And despite the fact that the app is pretty bare-bones right now, this core ability alone makes a huge difference in usage, enough to crown Clip the best clipboard manager to ever ship on iOS.

Let’s check it out.

To be able to monitor your clipboard and build a history, a proper clipboard manager needs to keep running in the background at all times. However, due to the system limitations of iOS and Apple’s rules on the App Store, building a clipboard manager for the iPhone isn’t as straightforward for developers as it is on macOS. On iOS, only some system entitlements allow apps to do this, and to this date, Apple still doesn’t permit third-party developers to release an app on the App Store that can continuously run in the background to monitor your clipboard.

As a result, clipboard manager apps like Yoink and Paste have long relied on cumbersome workarounds, like manually adding content to the clipboard history via the share sheet, having to tap a Home Screen widget, or even installing a full third-party keyboard to access and manage your clipboard history from any app’s text fields. These workarounds aren’t ideal to say the least. They require you to jump out of your context, and they simply won’t work if you regularly forget to save your clipboard content.

Clip is different. Since it doesn’t have to follow Apple’s strict rules for apps released in the App Store, Clip is able to use the iPhone’s location services to continuously run in the background. This allows the app to send you a notification every time you copy something on iOS, regardless of the app you’re in. All you have to do is swipe down on the notification banner, and that’s it. You’ve just updated your clipboard history. You didn’t have to use a share sheet extension, install a new keyboard, or go back to the Home Screen to tap a widget — and best of all, you didn’t have to leave the app you were in. It’s glorious.

Clip sends you a notification every time you copy something on iOS. Simply swipe down on the notification to add it to Clip without leaving the app you're in. It even works with images.

Clip sends you a notification every time you copy something on iOS. Simply swipe down on the notification to add it to Clip without leaving the app you’re in. It even works with images.

To set up Clip (assuming you’ve already gone through the process of installing AltStore and Clip on your iPhone), open Settings, scroll down to ‘Clip’, then make sure you give the app the proper permissions:

  • ‘Allow location access’ must be set to ‘Always’; otherwise, Clip will not be able to keep running in the background. This will also let you see your clipboard history items on a map inside the app. If you’re understandably weary about this setting, know that the developers behind Clip and AltStore specifically mention that, ”Your location data never leaves this device.“
  • ‘Paste from Other Apps’ must be set to ‘Allow’ (instead of the default ‘Ask’); otherwise, iOS will systematically display a permission popup every time Clip attempts to read your clipboard. Note that even after granting this permission, Clip is not able to read your clipboard unless you swipe down on the app’s notification.
For Clip to work properly, make sure the app's location access is set to 'Always' and clipboard access to 'Allow'.

For Clip to work properly, make sure the app’s location access is set to ‘Always’ and clipboard access to ‘Allow’.

Inside the app itself, the only two settings you can tweak are the number of clipboard history items to keep and a toggle to disable location icons.

Apart from that, the UI is very basic. You can tap on clipboard history items in the List tab to copy, delete, or share them via the share sheet, and you can switch to the Map tab to view your clipboard history items on a map. The app supports various types of clipboard content, including text, URLs, and images (in which case a preview is displayed).

Additionally, in the current beta version of the app (which you can also install via AltStore), Clip is adding a custom keyboard to allow you to paste items from your clipboard history directly into any text field. Simply tap the globe icon to view your clippings and select one of them to paste it. You’re then automatically brought back to your regular keyboard so you can continue typing. It’s a welcome addition that makes it even easier to tap into your clipboard history without having to switch apps.

You can tweak the number of clipboard history items to keep in Clip.

You can tweak the number of clipboard history items to keep in Clip.

Clip Beta is adding a custom keyboard to allow you to paste items from your clipboard history directly into any text field.

Clip Beta is adding a custom keyboard to allow you to paste items from your clipboard history directly into any text field.

Even in its current basic state, Clip is already far ahead of any other clipboard manager app on the iPhone in that I actually use it without having to actively think about it. Still, I think the app would cement itself as a great productivity tool if it gained a couple of more advanced features in the near future.

Here’s my small wish list for Clip:

Add Shortcuts support. Right now, it’s pretty easy to go back and forth between Clip and other apps to string together multiple clipboard history items in, say, a note. However, it can quickly become frustrating if you’re trying to act on more than two or three items at once. As a result, I would love to be able to create simple shortcuts to fetch a set number of recent clipboard history items and manipulate them. Even better, I would love a shortcut action that could let me fetch all my clipboard history items that contain a specific keyword or string of text.

Add drag and drop support. This one will make more sense once Clip and AltStore are available on iPadOS (hopefully later this year), but even on iOS, being able to drag and drop clipboard history items from Clip to other apps would be amazing. On the iPad, I can’t wait to be able to keep Clip in Slide Over, or in a floating window with Stage Manager, and quickly pick up and drop items from my clipboard history to a code editor or a note in Obsidian.

Add a Home Screen widget. Even if Clip doesn’t need a Home Screen widget to function, it would be helpful to be able to see your recent clipboard history right on the Home Screen without having to open the app. Already, I suspect many heavy Clip users will want to keep the app icon on their Home Screen; since the app is already taking up precious space there, it might as well be functional.

Ship on macOS. Like I said, hopefully we’ll get to use Clip on both iOS and iPadOS later this year. But the even greater prospect would be to have Clip run on macOS as well. When using Clip, you may notice that the app is already able to monitor your Mac clipboard thanks to Universal Clipboard. As soon as I copy something on my Mac, a Clip notification appears on my iPhone, letting me add what I just copied on macOS to my clipboard history inside Clip on iOS. If a Mac version of Clip existed, it could automatically add my Mac’s clipboard content to its history and keep it in sync between the two devices. Clip could be the app that brings us closer than ever to the productivity dream of having a proper universal clipboard manager that works across all of Apple’s platforms.

Since it was not nearly as anticipated as Delta, Clip is flying a bit under the radar following AltStore’s release in the EU. But here’s the thing: Clip represents and highlights the potential for apps released outside of Apple’s App Store, apps that could have never existed because of the company’s limitations. It will be interesting to see whether apps like Clip take off in the EU in the coming months and years. If that happens, hopefully Apple will take the hint: if it isn’t going to add a native clipboard manager to iOS and iPadOS anytime soon, then it should at least let apps like Clip thrive in its own App Store for all to enjoy.

In the meantime, if you don’t live in the EU, you should be jealous. We have working clipboard managers here.

Clip is available in AltStore. In the EU, AltStore requires a €1.50 (+ VAT) annual subscription. Clip can be installed after pledging to the AltStore team’s Patreon.

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