How to create a shared clipboard and copy and paste text between computers with ease

Posted by AB
Apr 30 2008

(It’s been a very busy time here lately: the taxes, a new product that’s almost done, but just can’t quite get finished, and as a result, no spare time for this blog of mine. Dear Subscribers (both of you), I’m very sorry, please don’t give up on me, I’ll try to post more often here in the future. OK, I want to finish my new product first, and then I’ll try to post more often. I promise :-) ).

Anyway, today I’ll write about a neat way of creating a “shared” clipboard on your LAN, to be able to quickly send pieces of text between computers just as easily as pressing Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

Not sure what I mean? Suppose you have several computers connected into a LAN, and you need to copy some text on one computer and paste into another, how would you do it? For instance, most of the time I browse the Internet with my laptop. If I encounter a download link to an interesting program, I want to try it, but I don’t want to install it on the laptop itself (I’m very selective about what gets installed where), I want to download it to my test computer and try it out there first. So I need to copy the web address from the web browser running on the laptop, and paste that address into the web browser running on the test computer. If it were the same computer, the procedure would be extremely easy: Ctrl+C, then Ctrl+V, and that’s all. But if I do Ctrl+C on one computer and then Ctrl+V on another one, it does not work the way I want, because the second computer has its own clipboard, independent of the clipboard the first computer has.

To solve this problem, I need to create a “shared” clipboard. In the past I used a little utility called Netclip, that did that for me: it used a shared folder as the storage for the shared clipboard, and whenever I wanted to copy something across the network, I would press Ctrl+Alt+C, to copy, and then moved to the second computer, pressed Ctrl+Alt+V there, and that would paste the result there. It worked well for years, but then Vista came along, and Netclip stopped working with it (and it did not seem like the Netclip developers were around anymore to release a new Vista-compatible version). So I started searching for a replacement, and tried a few other similar utilities, claiming the ability to share the clipboard between several computers. Unfortunately, none of them worked well.

Finally, some time ago I encountered a free tool called AutoHotkey (it’s a pity I did not discover it earlier, it would have saved me quite a lot of keystokes). In a nutshell, Aut0Hotkey enables you to create scripts to be executed when certain keys are pressed. There are plenty of examples at their web site of the scripts doing a lot of different things, check it out!

One of the first things I tried with AutoHotkey was to write a script that would emulate the functionality of the Netclip utility.The idea was as follows: I would set up a shared folder on one my computers that is turned on most of the time. Then I would set up two hot keys, one (Win+C) to copy whatever was currently selected to a file located in the shared folder, and the second key (Win+V) to read information from that file, and paste it into the clipboard.

After looking into the sample AutoHotkey scripts, I came up with the following script to emulate Netclip:

--- begin netclip.ahk ----

path := "\\your_computer\your_shared_folder\netclip.txt"
#C:: ; Win+C

AutoTrim Off  ; Retain any leading and trailing whitespace on the clipboard.

FileDelete, %path%
if (ErrorLevel > 0 ) ; could not delete the file
{
 MsgBox FileDelete failed for %path%
 return
}

Send ^c	; copy whatever it is to the clipboard
FileAppend, %ClipboardAll%, %path%

if (ErrorLevel > 0 ) ; could not write the file
{
 MsgBox FileAppend failed for %path%
 return
}
return

#V::	; Win+V

FileRead, Clipboard, *c %path%

if (ErrorLevel > 0 ) ; could not read the file
{
 MsgBox FileRead failed for %path%
 return
}

Send ^v	; paste whatever it is from the clipboard
return

--- end netclip.ahk ----

To use this script, copy the code between the dashed lines and save it to a text file named netclip.ahk (or whatever you want to name it, but keep its extension .ahk). The only thing that you need to modify in the script is the variable path that contains the location of the shared file to be used for the storage, at the very top of the script. Make sure the shared folder you use for storage is writable from other computers on your LAN.

If you have not done it yet, install AutoHotkey on each computer, and copy the script to each computer, too  (or put it into the shared folder itself). Create a shortcut to the script, and use it whenever you want to activate the shared clipboard. If you want it to be always active, add the shortcut to your Programs – Startup folder.
Now, whenever you want to copy some text to the shared clipboard, select it just as you would for the regular copy, but instead of Ctrl+C press Win+C. To paste it into another computer, go to that computer and instead of the usual Ctrt+V press Win+V. Yes, it’s that easy :-)

It works well for me, I hope it will work just as well for you, too. Happy copy-pasting, bye till next time. I’m off to finish my new product (stay tuned!).

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6 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Hi,

    A very simple and in expensive programme, which allows you to share the clipboard of your computer with other computers on your local network is Clipboard Link. You can find Clipboard Link at http://clipboardlink.economy-x-talk.com . No programming involved.

    Best,

    Mark

  2. Toshak says:

    Hi,

    I’m the author of a little Java based utility called ClipboardMShareJ.

    Indeed you’ve followed pretty much the same idea as I did, using a text file to share clipboards across computers, and indeed I like the solution you suggest here.

    One problem though it doesn’t immediately work for other operating systems. So this is a Java based utility which does exactly what you do above, dump the contents of the clipboard to a shared text file- you don’t need a new set of keys it’ll continuously poll the clipboard.

    You can run it in Linux, Mac etc. as well, which was important for me because typically I have a linux in my work env.

    http://clipboardmshare.steweche.co.uk/

  3. Malcolm says:

    You sir, are a genius. Works perfectly. Now I can copy & paste text between my Win 8 workstation and my Win 7 virtual machine running in Hyper-V. Only worked in one direction before I found this website. Now I can copy & paste both ways, and at speed. Thanks a lot.

  4. Nev says:

    Hi,

    I tried this and works on both local computers, Win 7 and Xp, how ever I can’t get it to go on one to the other, either direction. Win 7 is 64 bit and Xp is 32, does that matter?

  5. Mike says:

    This script works great! Perfect for copy/pastes between my laptop and remote RDP session. Thanks!

  6. sijo says:

    I am getting below error:

    Error at line 1.

    Line Text: Junck characters.
    Error: This line does not contain a recongnized action.

    The program will exit

    Modification:

    path := “f:\tools\netclip.txt”
    #C:: ; Win+C

    AutoTrim Off ; Retain any leading and trailing whitespace on the clipboard.

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