I like to use vim to edit other (non-programming languages) stuff. So I paste the content into vim and make the changes.

How can I copy all of the text back into the primary clipboard for pasting?

Note that I use iTerm2 and the ability to use * isn't there as it is with the basic osx terminal app.

I don't want to copy to a vim internal register (such as the y yank command), I want to copy to the system clipboard.

Also, I want the contents of the whole file, including the content which is off-screen?

The alt-left-click-drag with mouse doesn't work.

  • 1
    on OSX :%w !pbcopy
    – Evgeny
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 10:03
  • I got /bin/bash: pbcopy: command not found Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 18:10
  • However +1 as it led me to an answer (below). Thanks! Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 18:32

3 Answers 3


I'm sure this is a duplicate but:


gg go to the first line
"*y start a yank to the system clipboard "register"
G move to the end of the file (you will see how many lines were yanked)

  • 3
    @MichaelDurrant talking in ALL CAPS doesn't make you right. The * and + buffers are for interfacing with the system clipboard. See vi.stackexchange.com/a/96/205
    – muru
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 9:57
  • This simply didn't work for me. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 18:13
  • 2
    @MichaelDurrant Hmm. OSX, isn't it? Try the + register (gg"+yG).
    – muru
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 13:44
  • Thanks muru, Looks like my version of bash doesn't this functionality. I am on Yosemite 10.10.4 Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 17:59

This alternative option using a : command worked for me:


This is useful for referring to line numbers, etc without having to navigate and highlight the area.


I've solved this in a better way than my other answer:

First of all get the new vim with

brew install vim

and then do

vim --version

Make sure it is 7.4+ Note that if you do vi --version you may that vi is at 7.3

Now make vi use that newer vim

alias vi=vim

and add that alias to your .bash_aliases file (or wherever you put aliases)

Finally add

set clipboard=unnamed

to your .vimrc (not .bashrc!)

Start a new shell and it should work.

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