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About linux : Pipe-tofrom-the-clipboard-in-a-Bash-script

Question Detail

Is it possible to pipe to/from the clipboard in Bash?

Whether it is piping to/from a device handle or using an auxiliary application, I can’t find anything.

For example, if /dev/clip was a device linking to the clipboard we could do:

cat /dev/clip        # Dump the contents of the clipboard
cat foo > /dev/clip  # Dump the contents of "foo" into the clipboard

Question Answer

There are a wealth of clipboards you could be dealing with. I expect you’re probably a Linux user who wants to put stuff in the X Windows primary clipboard. Usually, the clipboard you want to talk to has a utility that lets you talk to it.

In the case of X, there’s xclip (and others). xclip -selection c will send data to the clipboard that works with Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V in most applications.

If you’re on Mac OS X, there’s pbcopy. E.g., cat example.txt | pbcopy

If you’re in Linux terminal mode (no X) then look into gpm or Screen which has a clipboard. Try the Screen command readreg.

Under Windows 10+ or Cygwin, use /dev/clipboard or clip.

Make sure you are using alias xclip="xclip -selection c"
or else you won’t be able to paste using Ctrl+v.

After running echo -n test | xclip, Ctrl+v will paste test


# You can install xclip using `apt-get`
apt-get install xclip

# or `pacman`
pacman -S xclip

# or `dnf`
dnf install xclip

If you do not have access to apt-get nor pacman, nor dnf, the sources are available on sourceforge.



In ~/.bash_aliases, add:

alias setclip="xclip -selection c"
alias getclip="xclip -selection c -o"

Do not forget to load your new configuration using . ~/.bash_aliases or by restarting your profile.


In ~/.config/fish/config.fish, add:

abbr setclip "xclip -selection c"
abbr getclip "xclip -selection c -o"

Do not forget to restart your fish instance by restarting your terminal for changes to apply.


You can now use setclip and getclip, e.g:

$ echo foo | setclip
$ getclip

On macOS, use the built-in pbcopy and pbpaste commands.

For example, if you run

cat ~/.bashrc | pbcopy

the contents of the ~/.bashrc file will be available for pasting with the Cmd + V shortcut.

To save the current clipboard to a file, redirect the output pbpaste to a file:

pbpaste > my_clipboard.txt

2018 answer

Use clipboard-cli. It works with macOS, Windows, Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Android without any real issues.

Install it with:

npm install -g clipboard-cli

Then you can do:

echo foo | clipboard 

If you want, you can alias to cb by putting the following in your .bashrc, .bash_profile, or .zshrc:

alias cb=clipboard

xsel on Debian/Ubuntu/Mint

# append to clipboard:
cat 'the file with content' | xsel -ab

# or type in the happy face :) and ...
echo 'the happy face :) and content' | xsel -ib

# show clipboard
xsel -ob

# Get more info:
man xsel


sudo apt-get install xsel



xclip - command line interface to X selections (clipboard) 


On the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) you can copy to the clipboard with clip.exe:

cat file | clip.exe

Keep in mind to use the | pipe command. And not a > command, since that will not work.

Install the xcopy utility and when you’re in the Terminal, input:


Thing_you_want_to_copy | xclip -selection c


myvariable=$(xclip -selection clipboard -o)

I noticed a lot of answers recommended pbpaste and pbcopy. If you’re into those utilities, but for some reason they are not available in your repository, you can always make an alias for the xcopy commands and call them pbpaste and pbcopy.

alias pbcopy="xclip -selection c"
alias pbpaste="xclip -selection clipboard -o"

So then it would look like this:

Thing_you_want_to_copy | pbcopy

An answer located in one of the comments written by a user called doug work for me. Since I found it so helpful, I decided to restate in an answer.

Here is a ready-to-use Bash script for reading the clipboard which works on multiple platforms.

Please edit the script here if you add functionality (e.g., more platforms).

# WF 2013-10-04
# Multi-platform clipboard read access
# Supports
#   Mac OS X
#   Git shell / Cygwin (Windows)
#   Linux (e.g., Ubuntu)

# Display an error
error() {
  echo "error: $1" 1>&2
  exit 1

# getClipboard
function getClipboard() {
      case $os in
        # Git Bash  (Windows)
          cat /dev/clipboard;;
        # Mac OS X
        # Linux
          # Works only for the X clipboard - a check that X is running might be due
          xclip -o;;
          error "unsupported os $os";;

getClipboard >$tmp
cat $tmp
# Comment out for debugging
rm $tmp

For Mac only:

echo "Hello World" | pbcopy

These are located /usr/bin/pbcopy and /usr/bin/pbpaste.

On Windows (with Cygwin) try
cat /dev/clipboard or echo "foo" > /dev/clipboard as mentioned in this article.

There are different clipboards in Linux; the X server has one, the window manager might have another one, etc. There is no standard device.

Oh, yes, on CLI, the screen program has its own clipboard as well, as do some other applications like Emacs and vi.

In X, you can use xclip.

You can check this thread for other possible answers:

This is a simple Python script that does just what you need:


import sys

# Clipboard storage
clipboard_file = '/tmp/clipboard.tmp'

if(sys.stdin.isatty()): # Should write clipboard contents out to stdout
    with open(clipboard_file, 'r') as c:
elif(sys.stdout.isatty()): # Should save stdin to clipboard
    with open(clipboard_file, 'w') as c:

Save this as an executable somewhere in your path (I saved it to /usr/local/bin/clip. You can pipe in stuff to be saved to your clipboard…

echo "Hello World" | clip

And you can pipe what’s in your clipboard to some other program…

clip | cowsay
< Hello World >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

Running it by itself will simply output what’s in the clipboard.

I have found a good reference: How to target multiple selections with xclip

In my case, I would like to paste content on the clipboard and also to see what is been pasted there, so I used also the tee command with a file descriptor:

echo "just a test" | tee >(xclip -i -selection clipboard)

>() is a form of process substitution. Bash replaces each with the path to a file descriptor which is connected to the standard input of the program within the parentheses.

The teecommand forks your command allowing you to “pipe its content” and see the result on standard output “stdout”.

You can also create aliases to get and write on the clipboard, allowing you to use “pbcopy” and “pbpaste” as if you where on Mac. In my case, as I use Z shell (zsh), I have this in my aliases file:

(( $+commands[xclip] )) && {
    alias pbpaste='xclip -i -selection clipboard -o'
    alias pbcopy='xclip -selection clipboard'

The (( $+command[name] )) in Z shell tests if the command “name” is installed on your system, and then both aliases are grouped with {}. The && is a binary AND; if a then b, hence if you have xclip then the aliases will be set.

echo "another test" | tee >(pbcopy)

To get your clipboard content, just type:

pbpaste | "any-command-you-need-here"

  xsel -b

Does the job for X Window, and it is mostly already installed.
A look in the man page of xsel is worth the effort.

Copy and paste to clipboard in Windows (Cygwin):


$ clip.exe -?

    Redirects output of command line tools to the Windows clipboard.
    This text output can then be pasted into other programs.
Parameter List:
/?                  Displays this help message.
DIR | CLIP          Places a copy of the current directory
                        listing into the Windows clipboard.
CLIP < README.TXT   Places a copy of the text from readme.txt
                        on to the Windows clipboard.

Also getclip (it can be used instead of Shift + Ins!) and putclip (echo oaeuoa | putclip.exe to put it into clip) exist.

pbcopy is built into OS X:

Copying the content of file .bash_profile:

cat ~/.bash_profile | pbcopy

I just searched the same stuff in my KDE environment.

Feel free to use clipcopy and clippaste.


> echo "TEST CLIP FROM TERMINAL" | clipcopy
> clippaste

In Linux this works:

cat filename | xclip

There are a couple of ways. Some of the ways that have been mentioned include (I think) tmux, Screen, Vim, Emacs, and the shell. I don’t know Emacs or Screen, so I’ll go over the other three.


While not an X selection, tmux has a copy mode accessible via prefix-[ (prefix is Ctrl + B by default). The buffer used for this mode is separate and exclusive to tmux, which opens up quite a few possibilities and makes it more versatile than the X selections in the right situations.

To exit this mode, hit Q; to navigate, use your Vim or Emacs binding (default = Vim), so hjkl for movement, v/V/C-v for character/line/block selection, etc. When you have your selection, hit Enter to copy and exit the mode.

To paste from this buffer, use prefix-].


Any installation of X11 seems to come with two programs by default: xclip and xsel (kind of like how it also comes with both startx and xinit). Most of the other answers mention xclip, and I really like xsel for its brevity, so I’m going to cover xsel.

From xsel(1x):

Input options \

-a, –append \

append standard input to the selection. Implies -i.

-f, –follow \

append to selection as standard input grows. Implies -i.

-i, –input \

read standard input into the selection.

Output options \

-o, –output \

write the selection to standard output.

Action options \

-c, –clear \

clear the selection. Overrides all input options.

-d, –delete \

Request that the current selection be deleted. This not only clears the selection, but also requests to the program in which the selection resides that the selected contents be deleted. Overrides all input options.

Selection options \

-p, –primary \

operate on the PRIMARY selection (default).

-s, –secondary \

operate on the SECONDARY selection.

-b, –clipboard \

operate on the CLIPBOARD selection.

And that’s about all you need to know. p (or nothing) for PRIMARY, s for SECONDARY, b for CLIPBOARD, o for output.

Example: say I want to copy the output of foo from a TTY and paste it to a webpage for a bug report. To do this, it would be ideal to copy to/from the TTY/X session. So the question becomes how do I access the clipboard from the TTY?

For this example, we’ll assume the X session is on display :1.

$ foo -v
Error: not a real TTY
blah blah @ 0x0000000040abeaf4
blah blah @ 0x0000000040abeaf8
blah blah @ 0x0000000040abeafc
blah blah @ 0x0000000040abeb00
$ foo -v | DISPLAY=:1 xsel -b # copies it into clipboard of display :1

Then I can Ctrl + V it into the form as per usual.

Now say that someone on the support site gives me a command to run to fix the problem. It’s complicated and long.

$ DISPLAY=:1 xsel -bo
sudo foo --update --clear-cache --source-list="http://foo-software.com/repository/foo/debian/ubuntu/xenial/164914519191464/sources.txt"
$ $(DISPLAY=:1 xsel -bo)
Password for braden:
UPDATING %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% 100.00%
Clearing cache...
Fetching sources...
Reticulating splines...
Watering trees...
Climbing mountains...
Looking advanced...
$ foo
Thank you for your order. A pizza should arrive at your house in the next 20 minutes. Your total is $6.99

Pizza ordering seems like a productive use of the command line.

…moving on.


If compiled with +clipboard (This is important! Check your vim --version), Vim should have access to the X PRIMARY and CLIPBOARD selections. The two selections are accessible from the * and + registers, respectively, and may be written to and read from at your leisure the same as any other register.

For example:

:%y+    ; copy/yank (y) everything (%) into the CLIPBOARD selection (+)
"+p     ; select (") the CLIPBOARD selection (+) and paste/put it
ggVG"+y ; Alternative version of the first example

If your copy of Vim doesn’t directly support access to X selections, though, it’s not the end of the world. You can just use the xsel technique as described in the last section.

:r ! xsel -bo ; read  (r) from the stdout of (!) `xsel -bo`
:w ! xsel -b  ; write (w) to the stdin of    (!) `xsel -b`

Bind a couple key combos and you should be good.

The Ruby oneliner inspired me to try with Python.

Say we want a command that indents whatever is in the clipboard with four spaces. It is perfect for sharing snippets on Stack Overflow.

$ pbpaste | python -c "import sys
 for line in sys.stdin:
   print(f'    {line}')" | pbcopy

That’s not a typo. Python needs newlines to do a for loop. We want to alter the lines in one pass to avoid building up an extra array in memory.

If you don’t mind building the extra array try:

$ pbpaste | python -c "import sys; print(''.join([f'    {l}' for l in sys.stdin]))" | pbcopy

but honestly awk is better for this than python. I defined this alias in my ~/.bashrc file

alias indent="pbpaste | awk '{print \"    \"\$0}' | pbcopy"

Now when I run indent, whatever is in my clipboard is indented.

A few Windows programs I wrote years ago. They allow you dump, push, append and print the clipboard. It works like this:

dumpclip | perl -pe "s/monkey/chimp/g;" | pushclip

It includes source code: cmd_clip.zip

From this thread, there is an option which does not require installing any gclip/xclip/xsel third-party software.

A Perl script (since Perl is usually always installed)

use Win32::Clipboard;
print Win32::Clipboard::GetText();

On Wayland, xcopy doesn’t seem to work. Use wl-clipboard instead.

E.g., on Fedora:

sudo dnf install wl-clipboard

tree | wl-copy

wl-paste > file

In macOS, use pbpaste.

For example:

Update the clipboard

pbpaste  | ruby -ne ' puts "\|" + $_.split( )[1..4].join("\|") ' | pbcopy

Yesterday I found myself with the question: “How can I share the clipboard between different user sessions?”. When switching between sessions with Ctrl + Alt + F7Ctrl + Alt + F8, in fact, you can’t paste what you copied.

I came up with the following quick & dirty solution, based on a named pipe. It is surely quite bare and raw, but I found it functional:

[email protected]:~$ mkfifo /tmp/sharedClip

then in the sending terminal

[email protected]:~$ cat > /tmp/sharedClip

last, in the receiving terminal:

[email protected]:~$ cat /tmp/sharedClip

Now, you type or paste anything in the first terminal, and (after hitting Return), it will appear immediately in the receiving terminal, from where you can copy and paste again anywhere you like.

Of course this doesn’t just strictly take the content from user1’s clipboard to make it available in user2’s clipboard, but rather it requires an additional pair of Paste & Copy clicks.

A way to paste from the clipboard to a file without any tools except echo.

  1. Escape single quotes in the text you want to paste: replace all occurrences of ' with '\'' and copy the result to clipboard.
  2. Type echo -n '
  3. Press Shift + Insert
  4. Type ' > filename.txt
  5. Press Enter

Basically you’re doing this:

echo -n 'copied "text" with '\''single quotes'\'' escaped' > filename.txt

It works even if the copied text has new lines.

For mac you can use this function which uses pbcopy and pbpaste, but a little easier:

Add this to your .bashrc or .zshrc:

clp() {
  if [[ -z "$1" ]]
    # No input - act as paste
    # Input exists - act as copy
    echo "$1" | pbcopy;

To copy use clp "Content" and to paste use clp

There is also xclip-copyfile.

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