From https://stackoverflow.com/a/65473/156458

Let's be careful with our definitions here

  • An Emacs copy is the command kill-ring-save (usually bound to M-w).
  • A system copy is what you typically get from pressing C-c (or choosing "Edit->Copy" in a application window).
  • An X copy is "physically" highlighting text with the mouse cursor.
  • An Emacs paste is the command yank (usually bound to C-y).
  • A system paste is what you typically get from pressing C-v (or choosing "Edit-Paste" in an application window).
  • An X paste is pressing the "center mouse button" (simulated by pressing the left and right mouse buttons together).

I wonder what "system copy" and "system paste" are? Are they by OS (here Linux)?

So are they different from X copy and X paste?


This is non-standard terminology, and the distinctions apply specifically when running Emacs under X11.

“Emacs copy/paste” are the Emacs commands that access the kill ring. They are Emacs commands; depending on how Emacs is configured, they may only affect Emacs internally, or they may also interact with the X11 selections.

“X copy/paste” are operations on the X Window System primary selection. This is the selection that is automatically set when you highlight some text with the mouse in many applications, and that is pasted with the middle mouse button in many applications. There's nothing “physical” about this selection.

“System copy/paste” are operations on the X Window System clipboard selection. This selection is access by many applications with explicit commands, often bound to Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. There's no good reason to call it “system” more than the primary selection: it's provided by X via a command in the X application, exactly like the primary selection.

  • Thanks. (1) Is Emacs copy/paste not implemented based on X? (2) In gnome terminal, are ctrl+shift+c and ctrl+shift+v also system copy/paste? – Tim Jan 16 '15 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Tim Emacs's internal copy-paste isn't based on X. Emacs works outside of X as well. In Gnome-terminal, C-S-c and C-S-v copy to/from the X clipboard. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 16 '15 at 14:34
  • @Gilles would you have any insight on this question please? – Steve Lorimer Jan 28 '16 at 17:44

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