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An interesting OS X feature, with a hint of déjà vu

By Colin Walls

Last year, I made the decision, for the purposes of my own computing needs, to consign Windows to history. This was not a decision that I took lightly – in fact I approached it with a lot of apprehension. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, it was a very good move. Using a computer is now less stressful and annoying and can even be a pleasure or fun some of the time.

Once upon a time, Windows seemed exciting …

I recently stumbled across a video:

Seeing modern teenagers reacting to Windows 95 was very entertaining and clearly shows how far we have come.

I started using Windows with 3.1, which was great just because it was a novelty. It worked OK, but getting some jobs done required much jumping through hoops. Then, one day, I got a computer with Windows 95 installed. Everyone I knew at the time thought that they had died and gone to [PC] Heaven. Every aspect of the user interface was so intuitive. Essentially, if you could not do it using drag & drop, you probably did not want to do it. All the obvious stuff was there: moving and copying of files, shifting data around inside apps, organizing the Start button menus. A feature that I was quite impressed with was, if I recall correctly, called “Scraps”. You could select some text in Word and drag it outside of the app – not just to another document, but even on to the desktop, where it was a special file called a scrap. This could later be dragged into an app, when required. It was like having an indefinite number of clipboards. I do not recall how often I used the feature, but it was cool.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 09.40.05

At some point, this feature seemed to go away in Windows. However, I recently discovered – almost by accident – that this capability is in OS X on Mac. I gather it has been around quite a long time, since OS 9. I have been testing the feature with a selection of common apps: Evernote, MS Word, Pages, TextEdit, Notes, Chrome – it seems to work perfectly with all of them. The mechanism is quite simple. You mark the text in the app and drag it out into a folder [or, most likely, the desktop]. It then creates a file with the extension .textClipping – the filename is the clipped text, or, if it is longer, the first 28 characters of it.

This file can be dragged into an app, of course, but it can also be opened. If you right-click and choose Open With, you would expect the file to be OK to open with Word or TextEdit, but that does not work; the file opens, but appears to be empty. Opening with Preview is not allowed at all. If you double-click the file, to open it with the default app, it opens in Finder, which shows the contained text clip. I assume that it is using Finder’s normal preview facility, but this does seem to me a little odd. I guess the format of of a .textClipping file is special.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at