A shared, system-wide storage area for temporarily holding and moving data.
Edit -> Cut (Ctrl-X)
Edit -> Copy (Ctrl-C)
Edit -> Paste (Ctrl-V)
The Clipboard is an invisible portion of memory, used to temporarily hold data as it is moved or copied from one application to another. Although you will never "see" the Clipboard, it is used every time you cut, copy, or paste something.
Using the Clipboard is easy. Select a portion of text in your word processor, an image in your graphics program, or a file in Explorer, and then select Cut from the Edit menu; the selected object(s) will disappear and be stored in the Clipboard. (Use Copy instead of Cut if you do not want the original data erased.) Then, move to another location and select Paste from the Edit menu to place a copy of the object on the Clipboard in that location. You can paste the data as many times as you like.
If you use Microsoft Office, do not confuse the Windows Clipboard with the Office Clipboard. The Office Clipboard springs into action and pops up on the right side of your screen at apparently random times, but there is some method to the madness. If you copy or cut two different items consecutively in the same program; or copy an item, paste the item, and then copy another item in the same program; or copy one item twice in succession, the Office Clipboard will annoyingly appear on-screen. But there is no relationship between the Office Clipboard and the Windows Clipboard.
The Clipboard works like the penalty box in hockey; it holds only one item at a time. If you place new data in the Clipboard, its previous contents are erased. If you never got around to pasting the previous data, it is lost for good. However, you may be able to switch back to the program that you cut from and select Undo (Ctrl-Z) to get it back.
You can paste only data that an application is prepared to receive. For example, you cannot paste an image into some applications that recognize only text (such as the Command Prompt or Notepad).
Even without an Edit menu, you can usually still access the Clipboard using either keyboard shortcuts or the right mouse button. For example, web browsers have a Copy command in the Edit menu, but this command is used only for copying portions of the currently displayed web page to the Clipboard. To cut, copy, or paste text in the Address Bar, just right-click on the text or use Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, or Ctrl-V.
The keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V) may not be intuitive at first, but when you consider that they appear together on the keyboard and are located very close to the Ctrl key, the decision to use these keys becomes clear. As a holdover from earlier versions of Windows, you also can use Shift-Delete, Ctrl-Ins, and Shift-Ins for Cut, Copy, and Paste, respectively.
A variation on the Clipboard theme is the Snipping Tool utility. It is a clever new Windows Vista applet that lets you copy any portion of any screen, annotate it, and then send it via email, copy it to the Clipboard as a graphic, or save it as an HTML or graphics file. It is a great way to capture and annotate screenshots, or information or graphics you find on the Web, and then share them with others.