James O'Neill's Blog

September 11, 2011

Adding $Clipboard automatic variable support to PowerShell

Filed under: Powershell — jamesone111 @ 5:08 pm

Some of the bits and pieces I have been working on recently have needed PowerShell to take input from the windows clipboard, and as with so many things in PowerShell there is more than one way this can be done.

  • If it is something short paste into a command line –wrapping in quotes or @” “@ as required
  • Paste into a new edit window in the PowerShell ISE and wrap it with $variableName = “” (or @” “@ as required) , then run the contents of the Window
  • Use  [windows.clipboard]::GetText() in a command line
  • Create a Get-Clipboard Function which wraps  [windows.clipboard]::GetText()
  • Create a $Clipboard “automatic variable”
  • Use the Paste.Exe which Joel has on his site.

Note (a) that if you want to use  [windows.clipboard]::GetText() in the “Shell” version of PowerShell you need to start PowerShell.exe with the –STA switch and run the command   Add-Type -AssemblyName (“Presentationcore”) – I’m actually only interested in doing this in the ISE.
and (b) If you want to send PowerShell’s output to the clipboard the command line Clip.exe has been Windows for several versions. It’s getting text from the clipboard which needs more work.

There’s very little to choose between having Get-Clipboard and $clipboard but having just read Robert’s piece on Tied Variables I thought I would go down that path.

Robert explained that you can set a breakpoint on a PowerShell variable to run a scriptblock when the variable is read, so he got to thinking “I can run something which changes the value of variable, when it is read.

In my profile I have

$Global:MyBreakPoint = $Global:Clipboard = Set-PSBreakpoint -Variable Clipboard -Mode Read -Action {
Set-Variable clipboard ([Windows.clipboard]::GetText()) -Option ReadOnly, AllScope -Scope Global -Force}

So $clipboard is set to the breakpoint which is created by monitoring read action on itself. At each subsequent read the script-block is called and uses set-variable to make $clipboard a ReadOnly variable holding the value of the clipboard at that moment.

In the I modified my Get-SQL command to take advantage of this. I added a –Paste switch (I chose –paste over –clipboard simply because I already had –connection so –c would be ambiguous –paste allows me to run sql –p , taking advantage of SQL being an automatic alias for Get-SQL) then

if ($Paste -and (test-path 'Variable:\Clipboard'))
    {$sql = $Clipboard -replace ".*(?=select|update|delete)","" -replace "[\n|\r]+","" }

This trims out anything before “Select”, “update” or “Delete” –as I am usually copying a statement from a log with a time stamp at the start, and it also replaces any carriage return/line feed characters.

WHAT ? A bug in the PowerShell ISE

imageThis was all working brilliantly until I went to use a function which uses the PowerShellISE object model to manipulate text in an edit window it fails – the error implies that PowerShell’s object model thinks a debugger is running if a break point exists, even though trying to edit the script files interactively is not a problem .

To get around this I set TWO variables to point to the break point, one was $clipboard, which will be overwritten as soon as it is used, and the other is $myBreakPoint. In my edit function I now start with

if ($MyBreakPoint) {Remove-PSBreakpoint $MyBreakPoint }

Removing the breakpoint doesn’t remove the variable $myBreakpoint so on the way out of the function I use it to decide if I need to reinstate it.



  1. why not use RawUI from windows forms?

    Comment by Carlos Nunez — September 11, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  2. Thanks for posting these various tips James. Although I’m not a very proficient PowerShell scripter I really do find it interesting to see real world examples of using it

    Comment by SamYeager — September 12, 2011 @ 6:53 am

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