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>Is there some function that returns the string 
>in the windows clipboard?

Not in any of the standard libraries, since Lua is by design restricted to 
ANSI C (and the Windows clipboard isn't part of that :-).

I haven't heard of any Lua addon to do this -- I imagined it would be 
trivial to write one, but then I looked at the whole clipboard API and it 
is a thing of absurd complexity and non-console-applicationness, ha. Tell 
you what, with APIs like that, this Windows fad will never catch on with 
programmers :-)

But if you have or can find a little console utility program to dump the 
clipboard (or even some VBScript) then you could easily write a Lua 
function to get the helper utlity to do the work, e.g. using something 
very crudely like this:

function getclp()
   os.execute("myclipdumputil.exe mytempfile"
   -- or os.execute("cscript myclipscript.vbs mytempfile")
   local fil ="mytempfile")
   local clp = fil:read('*a')
   return clp

I couldn't find such a utility, but if you can, please post because I have 
just realised I have a very handy use for something like this myself!