What Is the Difference Between the System Clipboard and the Office Clipboard?

By Janice Uwujaren

The system and Office clipboards serve the same purpose and function the same way. They both duplicate or move data between applications through a temporary storage facility using the cut, copy and paste functions. Both clipboards are activated any time the cut or copy function is utilized. However, the two clipboards vary in significant ways. The differences lie in the amount of copied items that can be stored for each and how the clipboards are accessed.

System Clipboard Limitations

The system clipboard is a useful temporary storage utility for the copy and paste functions, but it has limitations. The system clipboard allows you to copy and paste only one item at a time -- making it very inflexible. As you copy and paste, the current item copied will replace the last item copied in the keyboard.

Power of the Office Clipboard

The Office Clipboard can retain the last 24 items that were copied. This makes it possible to view a recent history of items you have copied using the Office clipboard. The Office Clipboard also collects a list of copied items from multiple documents in any Office program that you can paste as a group in another Office program document.

Accessing System Clipboard

You can access the contents of the system clipboard by means of a clipboard viewer. However, after Windows XP, the clipboard viewer for Windows is no longer available. If you have the earlier Windows version of XP available, you can copy the clipboard viewer file from that version to a later version of Windows. The path for the clipboard viewer in XP is C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CLIPBRD.exe. You can also install third-party clipboard viewer software. As a third option, you can use the old-fashioned technique that was implemented in the early version of Windows of using Notepad as the clipboard viewer.

Accessing Office Clipboard

In Microsoft Office 2010, the Office clipboard does not appear every time you copy an item. To activate the clipboard, on the Home menu of the ribbon of an Office program, click the arrow to the bottom right of the "Clipboard" group. This action activates the Office clipboard task pane. This task pane allows you to manage the contents of the clipboard. This means that you can delete a single copied item from the history or clear the entire history. This feature also allows you to select a single copied item, multiple copied items or all items in the clipboard to paste into an Office program document.