How to copy and paste within a terminal in macOS or Linux?

Sometimes we want to store some piece of information while using a terminal, for example, a result of an executed command. We usually save it into some temporary file which is going to be deleted after all. There’s a better way.

Table of contents

    Copying and pasting on macOS

    On macOS, there are two commands - pbcopy and pbpaste which leverage the system’s clipboard.

    The pbcopy command puts input into the clipboard.

    pbcopy “some text

    Piping output works surprisingly well:

    ps aux | pbcopy

    If you want to print the clipboard’s content all you need to do is run pbpaste.

    Let’s say you want to copy and execute the file’s content. Of course, you may just use source file.sh but for the sake of this tutorial let’s assume that scenario.

    First, create a file:

    cat > file.sh <<EOF
    echo "hello world"
    EOF

    Then you can copy its content with pbcopy:

    pbcopy < file.sh

    The last step is to execute the clipboard’s content:

    pbpaste | zsh

    Copying and pasting on Linux

    You can create pbcopy and pbpaste commands on Linux. All you need to do is to add those two lines to the ~/.bashrc file and restart your terminal:

    alias pbcopy=’xsel --clipboard --inputalias pbpaste=’xsel --clipboard --output

    And… that’s it! I hope that those two commands will enhance your experience with the CLI.

    Artur Ziętkiewicz
    Artur Ziętkiewicz Elixir & React Developer

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