Every once in a while, I find the need to do:

cp /really/long/path/to/file.txt /totally/different/long/path/to/copy.txt

Since I use autojump, getting to the directories is very fast and easy. However, I'm at a loss when it comes to copying from one directory to the other without having to type out at least one of the full paths.

In a GUI filesystem navigator, this is easy: navigate to the first directory; Copy the original file; navigate to the second directory; and Paste. But with cp, it seems like I can't do the copy in two steps.

I'm looking to do something like the following:

(use autojump to navigate to the first directory)
$ copy file.txt
(use autojump to navigate to the second directory)
$ paste copy.txt

Instead of the longer-to-type:

(use autojump to navigate to the first directory)
$ cp file.txt /totally/different/long/path/to/copy.txt

Is there a tool that provides the functionality I'm looking for? I'm using Zsh on OS X El Capitan.


The below works in bash. I haven't tried it in zsh.


echo ~-   # Just to make sure you know what the "last directory" is


cp file.txt ~-/copy.txt

Also see:

  • 1
    This looks perfect! I can use dirs -v to check the stack, and then ~# to reference the other path (where # is the integer identifying the directory on the stack). Also, I can confirm this works fine in zsh. – Radon Rosborough Aug 5 '16 at 23:06

Here is an alternative solution, inspired by the comment by @Stephen Harris:

# You can "copy" any number of files, then "paste", "move" or
# "pasteln" them to pass them as arguments to cp, mv, or ln
# respectively. Just like a graphical filesystem manager. Each of the
# latter three functions defaults to the current directory as the
# destination.
function copy() {
    emulate -LR zsh
    for target; do
function paste() {
    emulate -LR zsh
    cp -R $radian_clipboard ${1:-.}
function move() {
    emulate -LR zsh
    mv $radian_clipboard ${1:-.}
function pasteln() {
    emulate -LR zsh
    ln -s $radian_clipboard ${1:-.}

Example usage:

(autojump to first directory)
$ copy file.txt
(autojump to second directory)
$ paste copy.txt

As you can see, these aliases are very thin wrappers around the cp, mv, and ln -s commands, so you can also pass a directory as the second argument, or copy multiple files or directories at once, or omit the second argument to act on the current directory.

  • 1
    paste is already a POSIX-specified tool, but I like this idea. You could improve it further by checking the number of arguments to copy and the number of arguments to paste and defaulting to ./ if no argument given to paste. You could even use bash arrays to allow multiple files to be copied, at which point paste would not accept any arguments but would just run cp -i "${copy_paths[@]}" . (or do nothing if copy_paths is empty). – Wildcard Aug 6 '16 at 1:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.