Linux: How To Copy and Paste From the Command Line

by on August 12, 2008 · 13 comments· LAST UPDATED August 12, 2008

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Q. How do I copy and paste text or output from a shell prompt? How do I copy text from one terminal window and paste it on diffrent server window using mouse?

A. You can easily copy and paste between multiple shell prompts or the terminals using nothing but your mouse only. This is useful to transfer configuration lines from one terminal to another all opened over ssh session.

Most Linux distros are configured the click of a middle mouse button as paste operation. All you have to do is select text, move your most to another window and hit the middle mouse button. If you have a scroll wheel, just press on it to past the text. If you see only two buttons, just hit both button simultaneously i.e. you can emulate a third, "middle" button by pressing both mouse buttons simultaneously.

Optional: Linux Mouse configuration

Usually you can reconfigure mouse by editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf file or your distributions mouse configuration tool. You can also use xmodmap utility for modifying keymaps and mouse pointer button mappings in X. Here is my sample PS2 wheel Mouse entry:

Section "InputDevice"
         Identifier      "Configured Mouse"
         Driver          "mouse"
         Option          "CorePointer"
         Option          "Device"        "/dev/input/mice"
         Option          "Protocol"      "ImPS/2"
         Option          "ZAxisMapping"  "4 5"

Further readings:

  • man pages xorg, xmodmap, xsetpointer etc
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 shakaran August 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

With keyboard:
Copy: Ctrl+Shift+C
Paste: Ctrl+Shift+V


2 Q November 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Only works in gnome, not in kde or another gui.


3 rebeka April 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

That’s not correct ! I don’t use Gnome and in here it works the way shakaran described. rxvt-unicode’s configuration makes it possible, just to give an example :)


4 Aaron August 14, 2008 at 3:53 am

…the real answer I’ve always wanted is how to cat the contents of a file to the clipboard. For example:

cat myfile | x-clipboard

That would occasionally save me a lot of selecting and copying.


5 mike August 24, 2008 at 7:46 pm


Apparently, this is a rather challenging thing to do. I’m there with you though – I will love to pipe into the clipboard. I’ve looked for a way to do it, but have never found such a way. Someday…


6 Aaron August 25, 2008 at 5:17 am

Mike–I found the answer a few days after I read the article.

Do this:

uptime | xclip

In your favorite X application (like gedit) middle-click. It should toss your uptime into gedit.

Unfortunately (at least with Ubuntu) there appears to be different clipboards. The X clipboard pastes when you middle-click, but there is another clipboard for when you actually click copy/cut/paste from a menu or use the Control+C/V/X


7 mike August 25, 2008 at 6:33 am

Hmmm…I can’t get this to work cause I don’t have middle click emulation on. I could play with that, but I like it off anyway. I’m in waiting until the right solution comes along.

This is a good start though, thanks.


8 Aaron August 27, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Mike–I have some additional info for you.

I tried:
echo Hello | xclip -i -selection clipboard

From all my applications, I could hit CTRL+V or middle-click to paste, but the “Paste” menu showed up in grey for all those applications. Strange.

Doing some digging turns up that X has multiple clipboards called Primary, Secondary, and Clipboard.

More info in it here:


9 mike August 29, 2008 at 3:44 am

Hey, that seems to work. Incredible. Time to make an alias to that combo.

I saw that bit about multiple clipboards, but it’s so baffling that I didn’t want to figure it out.

Why in the &*(% is it done this way? Eek.


10 murugesh February 21, 2012 at 11:32 am


i could not able to copy/paste by clicking right and left mouse button in my terminal, what need to be configured? this will save lots of time

now i am right clicking and selecting the copy and paste option to do this. pls help


11 Birendra Singh May 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Yes this is working fine.


12 Nar February 23, 2013 at 2:54 am

Hello Everyone.
I need to know how can I copy from Linux and paste into a world document.


13 ocj September 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Thank you for this article, it helped me a lot.


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