How to Use Text Clippings in macOS

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    In macOS, a Text Clipping is a selection of text that you've dragged from an application to another location on your Mac, where it becomes a unique kind of standalone file.

    The relatively little-known feature has been around since at least Mac OS 9, and it offers a convenient way to save out pieces of text from pretty much anywhere for later use in another app or document.


    To create a Text Clipping, simply highlight any piece of text and drag it with your mouse to your Desktop or an open Finder window.

    This saves the highlighted text - including any rich text formatting - as a .textclipping file named after the first few words of text that you selected, but you can easily rename it to make it more identifiable.


    To use the selected text in another file like a Pages document, drag the Text Clipping into the open document and the text will be automatically pasted wherever the cursor is located.

    You can paste the clipping in the same way into all sorts of open files and apps, including browser search engines, Mail compose windows, Xcode projects, and more.


    To quickly view the contents of a Text Clipping, simply select the file and invoke Quick Look with a tap of the spacebar.

    You can also double-click a Text Clipping to view the text in a dedicated window, and even highlight and copy (Command-C) just a snippet of the text from this window for pasting elsewhere.


    Text clippings can speed up many repetitive tasks, making things like reusing email/letter templates and code snippets a cinch. If clippings become indispensable to your workflow, consider creating a dedicated folder to store them, otherwise they can quickly clutter up your desktop.

    Article Link: How to Use Text Clippings in macOS
  2. roguedaemon macrumors newbie


    Apr 16, 2015
    Can I just say I absolutely love this series of how to’s. Really sets MacRumors apart, and stands out from the crowd of copy past “news” sites.

    While most of this stuff I know, I always read them because I invariably get at least a little tidbit out of it, like how this feature’s been around since OS 9.

    Great stuff guys, keep it up!!
  3. xflashx macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2016
    Im a mac user since 2007, but this is actually new for me. Thanks!
  4. macgabe macrumors regular


    Dec 29, 2012
    Thing is it's very unintuitive. Just tried it on this page. You have to wait (hover) above the text for about 5 seconds before dragging but you are not shown when you can start dragging because the cursor (usually) stays as a text selection cursor not an arrow. But sometimes with bigger blocks of text it becomes an arrow. If you drag before the five seconds is up, the cursor just reselects texts and you lose your selection.
  5. Deedolito macrumors regular


    Aug 19, 2010
    A big thank you for the 'how to'

    Wasn't aware the function was there, and will implement it into my work flow.
  6. Scooz macrumors 6502


    Apr 9, 2012
    Ah, we‘re so dark mode now.

    Looks pretty in these small pics but I really only missed it for Xcode and other „lab“ environments that usually already came with a dark mode.

    Any way to set dark mode per app?
  7. PJL500 macrumors 6502

    Nov 27, 2011
    Sheez! This makes perfect sense with the perennially sad MacOS clipboard. Good to know after all these years!
  8. woefi macrumors newbie


    Oct 17, 2013
    You don't have to hover 5 seconds – you can immediately click - but you have to hold there a second - then drag.

    And yes, I use this great feature since classic MacOS days. Unfortunately at the start of iCloud (maybe yosemite idk) this .textclipping files were destroyed when synced to iCloud and you could never rely on it. I thought they were about to abandon it...

    But now (I'm on Sierra) it works again well in the cloud.
  9. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    It's a nice feature. However, drag and drop a clipping does not work with non-apple applications (like a 3rd party editor). Open the clipping with double-click and copy-paste its contents, though, works.
  10. RedBear macrumors member


    May 9, 2007
    This has existed since Classic Mac OS. Not sure exactly which version, but it has to go back at least to Mac OS 8. Probably earlier. I never found it very useful in general. Only used it a few times in a couple of decades of Mac use.
  11. centauratlas, Oct 24, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018

    centauratlas macrumors 65816


    Jan 29, 2003
    Yeah you are right.

    The article (above) says since Mac OS 9, but it was definitely pre Mac OS 9 and pre Mac OS 8 even. It was introduced in at latest Mac OS 7 or 6, but am not 100% sure. When it was pre Mac OS 8, it used to just be named "Text Clipping" then it was named "<first words of text>...clipping" in Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9. OS X changed it again.

    I almost never use it though - I can see how it is occasionally useful, but not a ton.
  12. stillcrazyman macrumors 68020


    Oct 10, 2014
    In Exile
    I use clippings a lot. Great feature.

    One thing to note, and it might have been something I didn't do right, the clippings on the desktop didn't get backed up to either iCloud or my local. I do have one folder on the desktop for clippings, but it's contents didn't get backed up either. Just placeholders remain after I did a restore.
  13. neliason macrumors 6502

    Oct 1, 2015
    These little niceties are why I like Mac so much. This isn’t something I use or likely will. But these sort of intuitive features that make using a computer easy are what I think set macOS apart.
  14. SnacksGU macrumors 6502


    May 21, 2018
    Thanks for the tip! Is there a place here on MacRumors that all of these "How to" are collected? Obviously could manual search for them. But a place where they are all compiled. Each new "How to" could include a link at the bottom to direct you to the whole collection. Thoughts?
  15. jsmith189 macrumors 65816


    Jan 12, 2014
    Ha! All this time and still discovering the little things.
  16. macgabe macrumors regular


    Dec 29, 2012
  17. dannys1 macrumors 68020


    Sep 19, 2007
    No you don't you just highlight, click and drag straight away.
  18. phocion macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2008
    I think this was introduced with System 7.5 (along with Picture Clippings and Video Clippings), so that would make the feature 24 years old.
  19. Junior117 macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2015
    Toronto, Canada
    I've completely forgotten about this feature so this article was a nice refresher. I can't remember all of these features in macOS!

    That'd be a great idea! Hopefully they'll take that into consideration.
  20. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

    Feb 14, 2003
    SF Bay area
    There was a thread here about problems with losing formatting of styled text when using cut and paste. I found that text clippings don’t have this problem. They preserved the format of styled text.
  21. MrJeffreyGee macrumors regular


    Apr 20, 2009
  22. Eric5h5 macrumors 68020

    Dec 9, 2004
    Tried with two different non-Apple apps, worked fine.

  23. RobbieTT macrumors 6502


    Apr 3, 2010
    United Kingdom
    So far these little 'How To' features have just been nice reminders of stuff but this tiny one really surprised me. I often have a text edit file open for just for text clippings and only now I learn I can just drag text to a bit of desktop!

    Not sure who is digging out examples for these 'How To' features, but they should ask for a raise!
  24. tcador macrumors 6502

    Jan 16, 2008
    Reminds me of OneNote a bit. Look forward to trying it out.
  25. ignatius345, Oct 25, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018

    ignatius345 macrumors 68020

    Aug 20, 2015
    Text clippings play really nicely with Yoink, for anyone who uses that -- basically it's a little "shelf" that pops up on the edge of your screen you can use to temporarily hold files, images, really anything you can drag. Anyway, if you want to hang onto a few clippings of text for a minute, you can drag text directly into Yoink and it'll hold there as a .textClipping file.

    The old Mac OS X Hints website (now archived at was AWESOME for this kind of thing. RIP.

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