Quickly Act on Selected Text With PopClip and Its 180+ Extensions


PopClip was originally released in 2011, but I didn’t hear about it until four years ago, and I’m sure there are still a lot of people who don’t know about it.

It’s one of the many useful apps you can discover and quickly install with the “Ultimate” version of Ruby on Mac. You can pick and choose from hundreds of Mac apps, fonts, and dev tools in the included Brewfile, and Ruby on Mac will install them all at once, via Homebrew Bundle. That way, you can manage everything from one file, and keep it in sync with your other Macs.

Here’s how PopClip works:

  1. Download the free trial
  2. Drag it to your Applications folder, then double-click on it.
  3. Agree to the prompt from Apple about opening apps that you downloaded from the internet. You should now see PopClip in the menu bar. It looks like this, although it will be grayed out at first:

    PopClip icon in menu bar

  4. Click on the menu bar icon, then click on “Enable PopClip”. This will prompt you to allow PopClip to control your computer with accessibility features.

  5. Click on “Open System Preferences”, click the lock to make changes, then check the PopClip checkbox in the right pane. As soon as you do that, PopClip should display its “Home” tab:

    PopClip home tab

  6. Once that’s done, you should now be able to start using it, although it only comes out of the box with a few extensions, which you can see by clicking on the puzzle icon:

    PopClip default extensions

  7. To add more, click on the “+” button at the bottom. This will take you to the PopClip Extensions web page.

  8. Download the ones that look useful to you, then double-click on them from the Downloads folder, and they will be automatically added to your PopClip instance.

  9. If the PopClip menu bar icon says “PopClip is OFF”, click the OFF button to turn it ON.

  10. Now try it by selecting text on this page. When you release, you should see the PopClip menu appear above the selected text, and then you can choose one of the actions.

Here are the ones I use regularly:

One caveat is that sometimes, PopClip interferes with copying and pasting. When I select text, then press ⌘-C, sometimes it doesn’t copy it. I’m not sure if it’s because I disabled PopClip’s cut, copy, and paste extensions, or something else.

Having said that, you can disable PopClip in certain apps by excluding them via the fourth tab, the one with the “no” symbol (the circle with a diagonal line through it; although I think the line is supposed to go from top left to bottom right).

You can also make your own PopClip extensions. I haven’t yet, but I’m going to try soon. I want to make it super easy to install new dev tools or Mac apps by simply selecting the name of the tool, and choosing a PopClip action.

Here’s how I imagine it will work:

  1. The PopClip action will run a script that will search for the tool using Homebrew’s API.
  2. If it’s found, it will install it, then add it to the Brewfile-rom-custom file that comes with Ruby on Mac Ultimate. Ideally, it will put it in alphabetical order, and in the right section. The file groups “brews” in one section, then “casks”, then Mac App Store apps that are installed via the Mac App Store command line interface .

That’s it for today. I hope you learned something new, and if you’ve already been using PopClip, let me know what your favorite extensions are. I’m @monfresh on Twitter, and my email is moncef + my Twitter handle + .com.

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