The clipboard metaphor has been around since the first graphical user interface appeared on the personal computer. The idea is simple. You highlight any kind...

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The clipboard metaphor has been around since the first graphical user interface appeared on the personal computer. The idea is simple. You highlight any kind of data, be it text or graphical image and cut or copy it to the clipboard.

The clipboard is merely a temporary holding area. From there, you can paste to some other location.

For as long as the clipboard metaphor has been around, two simple design problems continue to plague it. The first is that Windows or Mac OS X allow you to place only one item at a time on the clipboard. If you try to copy something else to it, whatever was there gets overwritten with the new item.

The second is that the clipboard is merely a temporary, even volatile holding area. When you turn the computer off or even reboot, whatever was there is there no longer.

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There are many clipboard utilities out there, but I thought I’d mention one I saw recently since it was specifically designed to work within Apple’s latest operating system, Mac OS X Tiger or more specifically, within the Dashboard component of Tiger.

Dashboard lets you manage and call up little programs known as widgets that usually perform a single function. Examples of widgets are those that act as calculators, notepads, weather information and dictionaries.

You can press a key or click the mouse and no matter what you are running at that moment, the Dashboard will overlap a series of widgets floating within a transparent layer.

When called upon, you can use the widget to do its job and it vanishes when you are finished; the application you were running just before you evoked the widget returns right where you left it.

Evidently, Inventive Software saw this as the perfect place to create a clipboard widget that would elevate the clipboard to the next level. iClip lite is the name of the widget and it’s a thing of beauty.

When installed and evoked by Dashboard, iClip lite appears within the widget layer as a rectangle with several round portals that look pretty much like a portal you might see on a seafaring vessel. Within each little round window, you can see what is being stored within at any given moment.

To place something inside an iClip lite portal, you first move something to the clipboard. When you activate iClip lite, each portal has two tiny arrows. Clicking on the one pointing toward the portal transfers whatever is on the clipboard into the portal’s window.

From then on, any time you click on the little arrow pointing away from the portal, whatever is inside the portal is pasted back into the application. A small cancel circle between each pair of arrows lets you remove the item.

This simple yet effective method is innovative and intuitive. Until you delete items, they stay within iClip lite, to be pasted over and over.

A slide bar beneath the line of portals lets you scroll between them in case you need to store more to the clipboard.

Now iClip lite is a free widget you can download from the Inventive Web site. The developer says a more robust version is in the works.

In the meantime, if you want something with even more features, check out iClip 4. This version is a paid-for application that does not run as a widget.

But I was recently told by Inventive that a newer version of iClip will be out soon that combines the best of both worlds. iClip 4 sells for $19.95. Both versions as well as other software products can be downloaded at http://inventive.us.