I am trying to copy from the terminal with xclip and paste it into the unity desktop environment into gedit text editor. I can copy and paste with xclip in terminal:

$ cat line-size.c | xclip
xclip -o > input5.txt
cat input5.txt
#include <stdio.h>

However, when I press control + v to paste into gedit, it only pastes the actual last thing I copied within unity desktop, such as something from firefox browser.

How can I paste in gui applications something I copied from terminal?

2 Answers 2


I think it is just a matter of understanding the different selection clipboards used by the xclip utility

          specify  which X selection to use, options are "primary" to use
          XA_PRIMARY (default), "secondary" for  XA_SECONDARY  or  "clip‐
          board" for XA_CLIPBOARD

When you do cat line-size.c | xclip the default behaviour is to copy to the primary X selection buffer - to paste from that buffer, you need to use a mouse middle-click instead of the Ctrl+v combination.

To copy into the clipboard instead, so that you can paste with Ctrl+v, you would need to do

cat line-size.c | xclip -selection clipboard
  • 2
    It is equally as easy to paste by piping to xclip without additional arguments. Instead of Ctrl+v, just use middle mouse click. Mar 31, 2014 at 12:47
  • That can be changed to xclip < line-size.c -selection clipboard Jun 18, 2015 at 21:23
  • @SubhamoySengupta see my edit Mar 26, 2016 at 5:33
  • 6
    The instruction cat line-size.c | xclip -sel clip has the same result that cat line-size.c | xclip -selection clipboard Jun 6, 2016 at 13:58
  • 2
    I can't imagine the default use-case for xclip was to interact with something besides the user's clipboard.
    – aaaaaa
    Jan 22, 2018 at 23:27

Just in case if someone is looking for a shortest version without using aliases. By using something|xclip -se c instead of just bare something|xclip you can press Ctrl+V/Ctrl+Shift+V and see a desirable result. Where something — cat somefile.txt for example.

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