How to copy/paste between older Macs and iOS devices

A few weeks ago, I put a call out on Twitter for Continuity-based copy/paste apps:

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Since 2010, I'd been using Syncopy to sync clipboards between my Macs; unfortunately, the app had been virtually untouched since its release, and it got buggier with every OS X release. And that's not even talking about its iOS support, which was minimal and very quickly outmoded.

So, 2015 around the corner. Time for a new app to sync my clipboard. What better resource to turn to than Twitter? And though I didn't find a Continuity-based app, the iCloud-based ones I did find are pretty fantastic.

If you want share multiple clipboard entries

My first app came as a recommendation from Kirk McElhearn: CloudClip looks very similar to Syncopy on first glance, offering you a menubarlet that lets you sync the last 15 text, website, phone number, email, or map clips. The sync goes in both directions — anything you copy on your Mac will automatically be uploaded to CloudClip's database, and anything you copy on your iOS device will upload after you open the CloudClip app.

CloudClip's smart clipboard recognizes when you've captured a phone number or other piece of "rich" information, and it shows up accordingly. This is particularly cool if you copy something like a map address on your Mac and open the CloudClip manager on your iPhone — tapping the address's icon will automatically open the Maps app (Google or Apple) on your iOS device. (Tapping the address itself will copy it.)

CloudClip can also exclude clipboard entries from programs like 1Password, to prevent you from uploading potentially sensitive information.

Its one (potentially big) omission comes in the form of images: Simply put, CloudClip won't sync them. If you try and copy an image directly from the web, CloudClip will grab its web location, but not the image itself. As such, it may not be a perfect solution if you're looking to share images as well as your text clipboards.

CloudClip also requires that you open the app on iOS to sync the most recent clipboard entries from your Mac, which might be clunky if you want to instantly paste the last entry from your Mac to your iOS device.

But I like it for text, I like the easy access to my last 15 copies, and I especially like how quickly everything propagates across Macs and iOS devices alike.

If you want to sync images and have instant copy/paste between Mac and iOS

The other big copy/paste option in the sync space is Danilo Torrisi's Command-C, a menubarlet on OS X that lets you manually share your clipboard to iOS over Wi-Fi, and vice versa.

Unlike CloudClip, which automatically syncs anything you copy across devices, you have to initiate a Command-C sync for your most recent clipboard item. To do so, you'll need both devices on the same Wi-Fi network; from there, copy an item on your Mac and Command-C uses iOS's background app refresh to appear as a notification on your device and instantly copy that information to your clipboard.

Command-C is great if you'd prefer to target your clipboard saves to specific devices, and those devices are all on the same network. And it syncs images — something CloudClip distinctly lacks.

Which app should you pick up?

So which app is better, Command-C or CloudClip? It really depends on your use case.

For me, I copy very few items that contain sensitive information, and I'd prefer my clipboard sync be passive, rather than actively initiated. I also like having access to previous clipboard snaps on all my devices. But that said, I've also been using Command-C a fair amount to send GIFs over from my Mac to my iOS devices, or URLs I want to instantly sync. As such, I've ended up keeping both apps on my devices; I just use them for slightly different things.

What about you, folks? Do you need to sync your clipboards between devices? Have an alternate app you love and I should check out? Anyone developing an actual Continuity-based clipboard application? Sound off in the comments.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • 2 of my most used apps and yes I use both.
  • Or you could just use the standard Notes app with iCloud turned on for both the Mac and iPhone. This seems simpler and cheaper to me.
  • Right! And you could use AirDrop to transfer image files between devices. Am I missing something here?
  • Scribe is another good 'un, with Command-C like functionality. Requires BlueTooth LE on your Mac and iOS devices.
  • Another app I've been using is DeskConnect to transfer and broadcast stuff to multiple devices.
  • I've been using DeskConnect for awhile now and find it indispensable.
  • Like so many apps on the App Store these days, DeskConnect appears to have ceased being developed. Last update was Dec. 1, 2013. While I realize apps like this can have a long life even if they're no longer being developed, I've been burned enough times that I tend to shy away from things like this. I'll keep my eye on it though, that's for sure!
  • Thanks for this tip. Already downloaded my copy. Sent from the iMore App
  • Soooooo Pushbullet doesn't do this in iOS? That's new actually. I know it's an android future for Pushbullet, but it's possible it's not carried over. Posted from the amazing whatever device I can afford because I'm a broke college kid.
  • Thank you! I have been looking for a way to copy articles including images to Pages on my iPad Air 2. I then create an ePub that I save then read in iBooks. I can now do this all on my iPad with the assistance of Command-C. Is there a better way to do this all on my iPad? Sent from the iMore App
  • Follow-up:
    Just tried copying an article from Safari that included an image. It took 2 passes to complete the copy from Safari (iPad) to Pages (iPad)--text, then image. Was hoping the iOS to iOS copy/paste would work and it does! Sent from the iMore App
  • I just use Messages to send my "clips" back and forth between my devices. It handles text, photos, map data, etc. It is instant, already setup, and FREE. I just keep a thread open for sending items to "myself" and it works great. Am I missing something awesome that these other apps provide? (besides having access to past clipboard items, that is not available via Messages)
  • Using Messages appears to take additional steps:
    1. Copy
    2. Paste in Messages ( say, in iOS)
    3. Copy from Messages (Mac)
    4. Paste into the desired application. Also, given my need, I don't know if Messages will work. (However, I will give it a try.) Sent from the iMore App
  • 1st world problem.
  • Tried the Messages app to copy from Safari in iOS (iPad) to Pages in iOS (iPad) and it did not work. Serenity's 'Command-C' solution works for me! Sent from the iMore App
  • Thx for sharing, I used iTunes to backup and sync data, but it's too slow.
  • Any chance you could update this article? It's been more than a year, and I know there are new players in this field. Thanks for being the incredible resource you are Serenity (and iMore in general)!!