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For example,

Say I want to list the contents of a folder and directly paste them into a chat window for a friend to see.

I realize I could do ls > filename.txt to create a file (filename.txt) with those contents; I'd then have to open or print the file and manually select and copy the text block (which can be annoying/tedious.) I clearly could also select and copy the output of ls directly from within the terminal window.

It would be much faster/easier to simply pipe standard output to the clipboard.

What terminal command allows me to do this?

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4 Answers 4

178

This can be done with either xsel or xclip command line utilities. Since neither program comes with Ubuntu by default you'll need to first install them via Ubuntu Software or the terminal. Here's how in the terminal (but remember you only need one of these two.)

sudo apt install xsel
sudo apt install xclip

Note: If you're using Ubuntu in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) see this other answer instead.

Now some examples. If you want to copy the output of ls to the clipboard here's what you'd do:

With xsel:

ls | xsel -ib

With xclip:

ls | xclip -sel clip

This can of course be utilized for other terminal commands as well. Let's say you want to paste your network info into a help forum.

With xsel:

sudo lshw -C network | xsel -ib

With xclip:

sudo lshw -C network | xclip -sel clip

Make this even easier with a new bash alias!

Edit your ~/.bash_aliases file (if it doesn't exist yet create it first with touch ~/.bash_aliases)

Then add one (depending on which program you decided to go with) of the following:

alias copy='xclip -sel clip'

or

alias copy='xsel -ib'

Then save and close.

Now (after restarting your terminal) you can send standard output to the clipboard just by piping it to 'copy' (or whatever you decide to name your new alias)

For example:

ls | copy
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  • 2
    With newer Ubuntu versions, you should use apt. So sudo apt install xsel or sudo apt install xclip.
    – wisbucky
    Feb 25, 2017 at 0:55
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer but do you know anything just for Linux terminal?
    – Mohamad
    Mar 29, 2017 at 8:15
  • 1
    @jpaugh. Compare the Ubuntu package management documentation for 16.04 vs 14.04. In 16.04, it only mentions apt and not apt-get. You can still use apt-get, but they're trying to encourage people to use apt.
    – wisbucky
    Sep 5, 2017 at 20:12
  • 3
    You don't have to restart the terminal; you can just source ~/.bash_aliases
    – Rob K
    Nov 14, 2017 at 19:30
  • 2
    If you also want to capture stderr (the errors that might occur with your command, besides stdout), you have to use e.g. ls nonexisting_file 2>&1 | xclip -sel clipboard, meaning you redirect stderr to stdout.
    – chriad
    Jun 13, 2018 at 6:37
16

If you are attempting to copy to the clipboard using Ubuntu in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) xsel or xclip will not work unless you are using X Windows as clipboard is only for graphical. However, to pipe terminal standard output to the clipboard in WSL Ubuntu you can use clip.exe. You can then paste into the WSL Ubuntu terminal with standard paste commands and the copied text will be available in Windows as well. For example,

pwd | clip.exe 

will copy the current working directory to the (Windows) clipboard.

This search result appears at the top when looking for ways to copy/paste text in WSL so I think it is worthwhile to mention this so readers do not needlessly install xsel or xclip in Ubuntu and instead use clip.exe.

1
  • Thank you for this addition!
    – Insperatus
    May 7, 2020 at 4:47
4

Found this helpful for using the xclip utility in addition to the answers above. (source)

To Paste (from system clipboard):

xclip -out -sel clip

Demo:

$ echo hello world | xclip -sel clip             copy hello world to clipboard
$ xclip -out -sel clip | tail -f                 can pipe from clipboard
hello world
$ xclip -out -sel clip                           paste defaults to stdout
And thus I added this to my shell profile:
alias copy="xclip -sel clip"
alias paste="xclip -out -sel clip"
-2

I Found This Solution Which I Think Is Simpler & Easy To Remember:

pwd | clipcopy

You Can Use It To Copy Other Things Aswell:

ifconfig | clipcopy
echo $PATH | clipcopy
neofetch | clipcopy

You don't need to pass any other parameters, it copies directly to the clipboard. Hope you learnt something :D

Note: You can use the clippaste command to view what's currently inside the clipboard :)

3
  • Also, you don't need to write in "Title Case", nor use smiley faces. In addition, clipcopy and clippaste do not appear to be standard commands. Either they are from WSL2 or clipboard.zsh. Where did you get them from? Aug 28, 2021 at 15:58
  • user@computer:~$ pwd | clipcopy clipcopy: command not found user@computer:~$ sudo apt install clipcopy [sudo] password for user: Reading package lists... Done Building dependency tree... Done Reading state information... Done E: Unable to locate package clipcopy
    – Insperatus
    Oct 13, 2021 at 1:09
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    The which clipcopy in zsh shows that it is a function defined by ohmyzsh: clipcopy () { xclip -in -selection clipboard < "${1:-/dev/stdin}" }. You can find the source code here: github.com/ohmyzsh/ohmyzsh/blob/master/lib/clipboard.zsh Jan 15, 2022 at 21:20

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