Many of us juggle more than one device during the day—phone, laptop, tablet, and sometimes even secondary phones and smartwatches. But you might have wondered if, and how, you can move text and images from one to the other. It can get really crazy, really fast.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft know this, too, which is why they’re making it easier to send data from one device to another—as long as they are connected to the same accounts.
Apple: iOS, iPadOS, and macOS
If you’re sending text and images between Apple devices, a feature called the Universal Clipboard does a lot of the heavy lifting. It works seamlessly as long as you’re signed in with the same Apple ID on all your gadgets, and they’re all near to each other (since it works over a Bluetooth connection).
You might find all the settings have been correctly configured already, but a bit of preparation is still required. Every device needs to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on—you can take care of that under Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in Settings on iPhones and iPads; and under Network and Bluetooth in System Preferences on Macs.
All your devices need a feature called Handoff enabled, too. On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings and choose General, then Handoff to make sure it’s turned on. On a Mac, open System Preferences, choose General, and then enable the Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices option.
You can then just copy and paste as normal—pick up something on a Mac with Cmd+C, for example, or via the Edit and Copy menu options. On iPhones and iPads, a long press on text or images will bring up a Copy command. Paste on a Mac with Cmd+V or Edit and Paste. On iPhones and iPads, you’ll need another long press, followed by Paste.
Content copied from other devices stays on the Universal Clipboard “briefly,” Apple says, so it won’t hang around forever. As with traditional clipboards on a single device, anything you copy will be replaced if you copy something new.
If you’re copying from one device to another, and at least one isn’t made by Apple, using Google Chrome is one of your best options. You can download the browser on just about every laptop and mobile device out there, although this particular feature isn’t yet enabled by default.
For now the ability to share a clipboard between devices is only available on the latest versions of Chrome for Android, Windows, and macOS. It might eventually make it to Chrome for iOS, too, but that hasn’t happened yet.
With Chrome installed, type “chrome://flags” in the address bar and hit Enter. You’ll then need to find Enable receiver device to handle shared clipboard feature, Enable shared clipboard feature signals to be handled, and Sync Clipboard Service, all of which need to be enabled. Use the search option (Ctrl+F on a PC, Cmd+F on macOS) if you’re having trouble finding the flags. This applies wherever you’re using Chrome, on both desktop and mobile devices.
Once that’s done, you’ll need to be signed into the same Google account on Android (under Accounts in Settings) and on your laptop (under Sync and Google services on the Settings pane). As long as both devices have an internet connection, copy and paste should work without any further configuration.
From Chrome on the desktop, right-click on text or images and choose Copy to Your Device, then pick a phone, tablet, or laptop. You can then long-press anywhere in Android and choose Paste to transfer the content. To go the other way, select something in Chrome on Android, then choose Share, and pick the Chrome option—you’ll be able to pick a device. Then, on that device, right-click and choose Paste, or hit Ctrl+V (Windows) or Cmd+V (macOS).
Those alternatives may be all you need, but if not, there are others available, too. If you want to copy content Windows-to-Windows, for example, the operating system makes it possible, provided you’re using the same Microsoft account on both devices. From Settings, choose System, Clipboard, then enable Sync across devices. Anything you cut or copy from one computer can be pasted on another.
Of the various third-party options, we like Clipbrd (free), which is a Google Chrome extension that works across Android and any desktop version of the browser. Just use copy and paste on your devices as you normally would (via keyboard shortcuts or menu picks), and Clipbrd will take care of the syncing.
We’re also fans of Magic Copy (free), which is available to download for desktop as well as Android and iOS. Just use copy as normal, then open up the Magic Copy app on your current device. That’s enough to copy the chosen content to your cloud clipboard and make it available on every other device on which you’ve installed Magic Copy.
Then there’s Pushbullet (free), which works across Android and iOS, as well as Chrome and Firefox on any platform. It’s more of an extra app on top of your devices rather than an integrated clipboard manager, but it still does the job of letting you transfer text, images, and links wherever you have the app installed.
If you can’t find something suitable that works with the clipboards on your devices, numerous apps let you manage notes, text, and pictures between computers, phones, and tablets. Look at Google Keep, for example, which runs on the web as well as on Android and iOS; or Evernote, which has apps available for just about every platform.